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Himura Kenshin, a famous hitokiri

A Hitokiri (人斬, literally person-slasher) is a swordsman sent out by an important or powerful figure for the express purpose of assassinating others. While existing throughout Japanese history, hitokiri were particularly active during the turbulent years of the Bakumatsu, when both the Ishin Shishi and Bakufu required swordsmen who moved in the shadows, silencing their enemies swiftly and disappearing without a trace. These hitokiri were frequently unknown except in certain circles, where they would often take "professional" names like "Hitokiri Battōsai" and "Hitokiri Kurogasa". Frequently, hitokiri who fail their missions and are captured for interrogation commit seppuku in order to keep their secret orders from being known and sometimes, for the purpose of keeping certain assassinations secret, the hitokiri himself would be murdered or "erased" by his so-called comrades, thereby eliminating the full knowledge of his actions from the world.

Though some consider hitokiri merely murderers, those within the profession have said of that the difference between murderers and hitokiri lies in the fact that, while a hitokiri chooses to become a killer of his or her own free will, the targets to be slain are always chosen by someone else. Any hitokiri who breaks this rule to resolve a purely personal grudge opens himself to discovery, threatening himself, his benefactor as well as his missions and will likely meet a shameful end. Many, whether outright murderers or shameless braggarts, have claimed to be hitokiri in order to make others fear them, but it is said that being a hitokiri is not about killing - Not only does when one turn down the path of a hired blade to kill for a purpose and ambition, but a true hitokiri carries the weight of the lives he's taken upon his back as they drag him down into a hell of his own making all throughout his life for that very motivation. Often, one carries the weight of his assassinations for the rest of his days and those in the know are able to tell a hitokiri by his very presence or the depth of his stare.

Known Hitokiri:

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