At first it was just little things: a tug to her hair, an impatient shove, that sort of petty action, and Megumi couldn't really remember her parents, her family. She told herself it might be normal. Not that she didn't know Kanryuu was twisted and uncaring. She was desperate, not stupid. But it was easy to lie to herself, to tell herself safety always looked like this, that there was nothing better out there for her.
She doesn't enjoy his touch, but she understands the bargain: her body and her mind for her survival. Megumi thought, when she struck the deal, that keeping her soul would be enough. Nowadays, she wonders if she was wrong.
At first, she would wander in her mind, going through lists of herbs, trying to recall the sound of her mother's voice. But the memories are fading in ways that make her hesitant to even try bringing them up, and when she thinks of herbs she sees the vacant eyes of men she's helped enslave, helped kill.
Now, it is almost better to stay with Kanryuu as he takes what he wants.
Megumi's not surprised the first time he hits her, not really, she'd have to be obtuse to think that he would control and kill and kick and shoot others and never extend that behavior to her. So no, it is not a surprise. But it sparks something in her she forgot was there, something hot and angry and tired of rolling over, of doing as she is told.
She banks it forcefully. She's survived too long to be rash, sacrificed too much to give it all up for a fit of pique.
It is not as if once he's done it, it happens all the time. But she knows he has taken for granted that she will not fight back. In that, he is right. Fighting back would be foolish. His hired men would take her apart piece by piece and keep her alive for most of it.
Fortunately, Megumi has learned that fighting is not the only way to survive. In fact, of the possible options, it is perhaps the weakest.
She waits, letting the insults dig their way in as they never have before, all the tiny hurts and casual cruelties build up like so much dry paper and leaves. And when it is time, she lights the match.
When Megumi lays her hands on the first child to come to the dojo, and knows the cause, she thinks this is the price. She does not think she is worth it. Then the other children come, and she knows she is not. She mixes and forces tinctures down their throats, does her best to call up memories she's carelessly buried, and a few she has carefully tucked away. She knows this is her birthright, but she cannot say it feels familiar, not anymore.
As the children begin to come around, she watches their parents hold them tightly, rock them and whisper to them. She can no longer remember that sound or that feeling. She supposes she deserves to have that taken from her.
She is not surprised when Kenshin comes, either. They are too much alike, and she has given of herself. He will as well.
She is surprised when he wins, when she is able to walk away, when suddenly her life stands before her with a freedom she is not sure what to do with. She has spent too long making herself small, unnoticeable. The idea of standing on her own, of creating something around her, is terrifying. Despite herself, she grins, the fear making her giddy as it never has before.
She goes back to the dojo, to a place where, swords aside, violence has no place. She goes back to those who might be what a family is supposed to be to her. Time will tell.