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Conditioned

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The boy sat still as he could, fighting the urge to flinch away as the smiling blond man did something to his collar from behind. He knew moving would earn a smack, and that was if the other was in a good mood. If he wasn't, which the boy didn't think he was , not with all the tension in the air, it would be a beating at least. He didn't want a beating. These people looked a lot stronger than his other masters had been. So he kept still, scarcely breathing.

 

“I don't see why you can't just use the key from before.” The biggest man spoke, standing just in the corner of where the boy could see him. He sounded annoyed.

 

“That is a good question, yoi.” The nice man from the pens said. He didn't act like a slave and seemed kinda important. So it made sense that his people… nakama, he'd called them… had destroyed everything and took the other slaves. He'd seen it happen before when a Tenryūbito got angry. That was how he'd ended up with his third master, after all.

 

“Simple, Marco's collar was a newer model. They switch up the lock every few months.” The blond man replied.

 

“Ah,” Marco, the nice man, replied, crouching down in front of him. “We'll have you out of that in a bit, kid.” The boy blinked at him, not sure what he meant. His eyes traveled down to his cuffed hand, wondering if that's what the man was talking about. “That too, yoi.”

 

“Hmmm. Well, not the most helpful…” the blond man said.

 

“What? Is something wrong?”

 

“No, but look at this.” The boy held still as the other two left his line of sight. He couldn't help the shiver that ran through him though. They were reading his collar. The nice man would know how useless he was and send him back to the pens. “See these marks? It's basically a log. A way for potential buyers to know what they're getting.”

 

“Treating them like fucking animals.” The big man spat.

 

“Unfortunately.” The bBlond replied.

 

“Well, what's it say, Sabo?”

 

“Mmm… let's see…  EBG1131X 'Das’.” The… Sabo muttered.

 

“Which means what, yoi?”

 

“Give me a second! It's been awhile!” The man snapped, causing the boy to flinch away. He stilled when Marco came to crouch in front of him again, offering a smile. He hoped they didn't get rid of him; he didn't think he could handle the pens again so soon. “EB...that part’s easy; East Blue. That would be where our little friend is originally from. G… that's the island. Probably Goa, only island in the East Blue with ties to the Tenryūbito. 113…. Species, sex, breed -- basically if they have any innate abilities. Pretty obvious in this case; Human, male, devil fruit user. The next one is type… like if he was a Haki user if it's armement or observational. In this case, a one is… paramecia class.”

 

“And the X?” The big man asked.

 

“Nothing.” Sabo replied. “Don't give me that look Juju--”

 

Jozu , for the last time--”

 

“--Juku. It literally means nothing .” The boy felt a tug on his collar and bit his lip in worry. They sounded angry. “This spot is for use , alright? 1 for general, 2 for ornamental, 3 for fighting…. I've never seen an X. I've got no clue what it means.”

 

Marco made a face and the boy closed his eyes instinctively. Instead of pain, however, he felt warm fingers carding through clumps of his hair. He risked opening one eye a crack. “Das. Is that your name, kid?” The man asked. The boy couldn't ignore a direct question, so he jerkily nodded, trying to stay as still as possible for the one behind him. Marco smiled at him, and he let out the breath he'd been holding. “Das, do you know what the X means?” He shook his head in shame. The other slaves said it made him worthless. But that didn't tell him what it meant .

 

“Well, it was a long shot,” Sabo said from behind him, patting Das's shoulder and making him tense slightly. “Almost done, kid.”

 

“Hey, before we take that cuff off, don't you think we should make sure the ki-- I mean Das’s fruit isn't something that could cause problems?” Ju...zo?... Asked before turning defensive at the glare Marco sent his way. The boy knew Marco was important. “I just meant we don't know how much control the brat has. If it's not a lot, we should be ready is all.”

 

Marco sighed before looking back at the boy. “Well, Das? Is Jozu right?”

 

He bit his lip, trying to decide if this meant they wanted him to talk. His other masters never wanted to hear his voice, unless it was in pain. But… there was no other way to answer the question. He swallowed nervously, “Y-yes?” He tried.

 

The man seemed disappointed for a moment but before the boy could try again Sabo spoke up, “You asked wrong.” There was a click, and his neck felt funny, but he didn't have time to wonder why because Sabo was in his face, much too close. “What fruit do you have, Das?”

 

“R...rubber… I'm a rubber-man.” Das stammered.

 

“Good. Now, how's your control?” Sabo asked, something similar to a smile on his face.

 

Das-- if they wanted to call him by his name he had to start thinking of himself as his name again and not just 'boy’ or 'slave’-- couldn't help the sudden spike of fear he felt. “I c… I…” he swallowed, fighting the fear. Not answering would make it worse. “I can do whatever Master needs of me.”

 

The other two made an odd sound, but Das was too focused on Sabo to notice. “Yes, very good, Das.” He felt a trickle of relief, “But how good is your control over your devil fruit?” Das blinked at him. Hadn't he already answered that? “Will you accidentally hurt someone with it?”

 

“No!” He shook his head, eyes wide. “I won't hurt anyone; not unless Masters say to. Das is well trained.” He nodded, proud of that. He'd seen others fight back when their Master beat them. They didn't live long. “Master can beat me as hard and as often as they want, Das is hhappy to accept the punishment.” He smiled, trying to prove he wasn't as useless as the other slaves said.