They had taken her hostage. They had taken her belongings so she couldn't escape. They had kidnapped her, and now she could not break free.
The room Maron was being contained in was dull and gloomy, with not a speck of life in it. No window, no color, nothing but a TV, some rope, a chair, and her. The walls were black. The TV showed only a black, grey, and white static. The static moved around constantly; it was hypnotizing, really. The only time human interaction was made was when someone brought her food and water. Other than that she sat, tied down by strong tresses, in her chair. She was not gagged, but had at some point in time lost her voice. Now her words were hoarse and her throat sore. All day long she sat in front of the static television. No channels. No words. No anything. That static had become her only source of entertainment for the past few days. She could do nothing but stare at it.
The only time someone would come in her room other than to give her food and water was to repeatedly chant to her. They were not hymns. They were not prayers. Frankly she didn't know what they were. She didn't even know where she was. All she knew was that they said the same things to her, day in and day out, every day. It confused her. She couldn't focus much anymore. That static had sent her into so many daydreams everything in real life now seemed surreal.
"You are to use manners when speaking..." the voice droned. It was a man's voice. She could hear it plainly. It was flat in tone and had no expression whatsoever in it. "You will do as told..."
Sometimes Maron repeated the nameless man. Sometimes, which was becoming more and more frequent now, she chanted along with him as a pastime. It gave her something to do, it gave her interaction with someone. She needed it, relied on it in a fashion.
Today she did not repeat the voice, nor did she chant along with it. She merely sat and listened to that same emotionless voice that talked to her every day. On a rare occasion, she would drift off into a deep sleep. She pegged it as the static of the TV, but it could have very well been the voice. It was weird, though, the dreams she had while in her slumber consisted only of the chanting that took place. It was only her, the man, and his words.
But this time he said something a little different.
"I am your master... You will obey every order you are given... You will not question... You will not speak unless spoken to... You may only obey your master, and no one else... You may exchange masters only when the word is given... You are to use manners when speaking... You will do as told..." He looped and began his normal chant again.
This took Maron out of the security of the words she usually heard. It was only a brief moment, however, and she soon found herself indulged in the regular chant and these new pieces, too. They were her comfort, her protection. She couldn't let them go.
After what had to be at least three hours, the man left. The room was once more silent, with the brunette as its only tenant. Maron turned her head back to the TV and continued watching the screen. Why she watched it was beyond her; it never sent her into daydreams anymore. It hadn't become her friend. It was her reality, though. That which she so desperately needed. That which she so desperately wanted.
For the rest of her day, until she fell asleep, the black, grey, and white specks continually darted in front of her. Not even the words, "No Signal" was left on the screen. Just the dots that never ceased their rapid movement. All that was left was just those hypnotizing, funny little dots...
Three months had passed before the huge manhunt for Maron had finally been called off. Even though Detective Toudaiji was firmly against the idea, the higher authorities, having more power than him, had ignored his pleas to continue the search and took every officer off the case. Miyako, the detective's daughter and the brunette's best friend, had sided with her dad, also begging the higher-ups to continue. However, with absolutely no success at all, they called it off anyway.
Now they had to try to find Maron on their own, without help. Thankfully, the officers assigned under Miyako's dad had developed a friendship with Maron and agreed to help, devoting everything to the ragtag team of searchers. Of course, with all other officers called back to the office, there remained only Chiaki, Miyako, Miyako's father, and his underlings.
For a week they sought out their friend, and for a week there was a sense of "in vain"-ness. Their hopes had plummeted. Now all they had was a single strand of hope amid huge twines of doubt.
They wanted so badly to find their precious friend soon. They wanted to bring her back, give her a huge hug, and let her settle back into her apartment complex, where she belonged.
Her teacher had also received notice of Maron's unusual absence, and was told why she had been gone for so long. Now even the sensei was worried sick. Oftentimes she would go home and pray earnestly that her pupil would be okay, and that everything would be returned to normal. Maron was such a sweet girl, and she couldn't fathom why such a thing as kidnapping would happen to her. However, she didn't try to think about it too much; she didn't want to know what was happening or had happened to her student. She liked to think Maron was in good hands, that she was living a very peaceful existence. Something in her knew it wasn't true, and would hardly stand for such fantasies.
Nonetheless, she tried her hardest to envision Maron as happy; her mind kept worrying the worst had already or would happen. No matter how hard the sensei tried to shake the feeling, it just wouldn't go away. She loved each of her pupils too much, loved them like a mother! The thought itself of one of them being in harm's way brought her to tears, but now that one of them had actually been kidnapped and the kidnapper was still a mystery, she would bawl herself to sleep. Sometimes she would even have nightmares!
Maron sat alone in her tiny square room. She listened carefully to the sound of her breathing. It was even, like a heartbeat. It was regular, like the tick-tock of a clock. It was warm, like...like what? She had forgotten... What was warm again? The ropes, that's right! The ropes were warm if she moved around a little bit. Her breath was warm, like the ropes.
The man came in again, and Maron looked at him as he began chanting the same thing over and over. By now, Maron had become obliged to chant with him. She never missed a beat, never said the wrong thing, and never let something extra slip out. Her voice was no longer hoarse and she no longer made any attempt to be set free. Coupled with the static sound of the TV, the man's stale voice made an excellent combination for hypnosis.
However, what most don't know is that, when hypnotized again and again, until you stay in a hypnotic state twenty-four/seven, a brainwashing begins to take place, and you lose yourself.
This is just what Maron was in the process of. The man was giving her a good, old-fashioned brainwashing, and she didn't even know it. By the looks of things, the brainwashing, though it had taken some while, was nearly complete. Maron was obeying every instruction given, and was chanting her new laws with her new master.
"Maron does not exist. You are your master's servant," he said, with Maron not a single note behind.
"Maron does not exist. I am my master's servant," Maron said at the same time her master did.
"You will obey any command given." "I will obey any command given."
"You will not speak unless spoken to." "I will not speak unless spoken to."
"Your master will come before all else, because he is the only one that matters." "My master will come before all else, because he is the only one that matters."
The man smirked, and Maron stayed still and quiet.
"I, your master, will untie you. You, my servant, will stay where you are and not move." With this he proceeded to untie the girl. She did not move, even when the tresses were dropped, even when they slid off her body.
Whether or not the brainwashing was fully complete or nearing completion, he didn't know. With this girl, it had taken roughly double the time than with a normal girl. He might've overdone it, but it would be worth it, for this girl would make a very healthy revenue. Yes, this girl was a fine girl, and now that she was ripe for the picking, or at least she should be ripe by now, he could finally be rid of her.
The poor girl's eyes were dulled and no longer looked at anything in particular. She seemed withdrawn. She looked at nothing in particular; in fact it looked as if she simply was staring at everything, her eyes not currently exhibiting any tracking movement.
The memories of her past had dissipated into the blank nothingness that was her mind. Any recollection she might try to gather was lost. Now she did not think, she served. She did not ask, she obeyed. Her prime objective now was to please her master, and only her master. Nothing else and no one else mattered anymore. Fin, Chiaki, Miyako and her family...were nothing to her. She didn't even remember them. Kaitou Jeanne didn't exist anymore. She had melted away. Kaitou Sinbad and the demons they would compete over? Access? They had faded away with her mind. Everything now was darkness and confusion until she was given a command.
The Maron everyone knew had been destroyed.
"Maron was on her way to school when she was kidnapped, right? So, then we don't need to check out the whole city looking for her. We just need to check out the places near-" Miyako was cut off by her father.
"No. Considering her long absence and still no trace or body found, I would say she's been taken by a trafficker," the detective claimed.
"Trafficker? What's that?" Chiaki asked.
It was a bit hard to explain to someone he knew loved Maron, but the bluenette needed to know. He wouldn't give up until he knew. The detective mulled it over for a bit, trying to think of ways to sugar-coat it. There wasn't a way to sugar-coat this, though. It was hard news, it was never good and definitely never something wanted to be heard.
"Well, to put it bluntly," he started, "young girls are kidnapped with utmost secrecy. Then they're sold off to rich men to be slaves. Traffickers don't just kidnap, they're the ones who sell the girls. And, in some cases that depend on the business the girl has been taken by, they do what's called 'mannering'."
"Mannering is when they brainwash the girls to serve their new masters before selling them. We've never been able to find out exactly how they do it, because each business that uses this technique always does it differently. All we know about it is that after being brainwashed, the girl can't remember anything and believes she exists only to please her master. Sometimes the damage is permanent, and we can't reverse it."
The sheer anger in Chiaki couldn't have been told in words. If Maron, if his Maron, was being mannered...! But...no, this was Maron. She wouldn't just give in like that. There was just no way, even if it had been five years instead of three months, that she would become a drone. She was different, she was better. She was Kaitou Jeanne! Strong, stubborn, evasive, willful, resourceful, stealthy, and sassy. That was Maron. She wasn't weak at all; she wasn't going to give in. Ever.
However, he knew in the back of his mind that not even the strongest was infallible. Maron was indeed very strong, but not even she could hold on forever. She had been awaiting her rescue the past three months. It was only fair they stepped it up a notch.
Chiaki kept himself from doing anything rash and unreasonable. If he wanted to help Maron, he would have to stay calm and focused and keep his head in the game.
"Stand up," the man said.
Maron stood. Even though she was still confined to her small cell, she felt no eagerness to escape, nor a sense of urgency to get away. It was like all her instincts had been turned off. There was nothing inside her screaming, "Danger!" There weren't any little voices in her head that were whispering, "Make a run for it while you still can." There was no sense of dread that should've overwhelmed her.
"Good. Now follow me. You will meet your new master soon," he told the girl.
The two walked into a dressing room, where a female worker of a much lower rank in the business picked out a kimono she thought suitable for the brunette. The kimono was made of silk, and had a lovely violet hue. Many small white flower prints spotted it, making it look quite cute. It was, for the most part, simple in nature and meant to bring out a girl's personality. However, in this instance, this would be meant to make Maron look presentable for her new master. It was supposed to make her look cuter, better.
Knowing the brunette wouldn't change unless he gave the word, the man told Maron to change into the kimono. The woman who picked out the kimono seemed pleased that he immediately liked her selection.
Maron did as told, and the woman had a limited time to pull a curtain in between the man and Maron.
In minutes, the woman finished tying the bow on the back of the kimono and opened the curtain.
"Well, doesn't it look good on her?" she asked, more of a statement than a question.
"Come here. Follow me," the man said to Maron.
"Yes, Master," the brunette replied as she followed her master out of the dressing room and down a hall, banking with him as he turned into the main room.
The main room, the largest and most spacious room in the entire building. It was used for show, and nothing else. The floors were hardwood and the walls were painted a delicate pink color with swirls of gold, silver, and red. Bright lights illuminated the room, trying to focus their beams on where the showcase girls would stand. The showcase girls were the girls up for sale. They were brought out on certain days of the year, semiannually, actually, and auctioned off to rich men. This room is where it took place. There were no chairs, a person with a hefty offer would get to pick and choose the girl he wanted most, and that girl was sold to him, her master being transferred from the man who brainwashed her to the man who bought her.
Maron was the sixth girl to come out of the dressing room and into the main room. There was quite some wait before all of the girls were prepared and sent out. Then a new step took place. Each of the girls was lined up, one right after another, in the order they came out. There was a total of seventeen young girls around Maron's age. Each had been mannered and was now ready to be sold off to whomever decided to buy them.
Each young lady had a master. There were seventeen men who had come in front of their charges; these were the men who had brainwashed the girls. Each girl had been assigned one man to do the mannering. That man was their temporary master.
The men looked over their girls, assuring themselves that they were indeed fit for the auction. Each of the girls' eyes had been dulled and now bore a striking resemblance to the next girl's eyes. Maron's eyes were no different from the rest. Only their color could tell them apart. Each girl had been dressed in a kimono that the dressing lady thought would make them look better. Each girl wore makeup and their hair hung down naturally, though it was brushed neatly. Maron's hair was the same as it always was, with the exception of the side-buns she usually pulled her hair into.
It was only a short while, fifteen minutes probably, before the first customer came in. He was a large fellow who looked as if he carried a truckload of cash just to burn in a fireplace. All his clothing was expensive, and he even had a diamond-studded ring on all ten of his fingers, along with a matching diamond-studded watch.
Immediately the men dashed up to greet him. He brushed all of them off, saying he had done this many times before and he wanted to skip the chatter and look for his girl.
The men bowed to him and allowed him to browse leisurely through the vast collection of beautiful young women. In this he took his sweet time. He inspected each and every girl thoroughly before repeatedly coming back to the ones he liked. He approached the girl beside Maron and the girl on the very end of the line the most.
"I expect they're all fully mannered?" he huffed.
"Yes, sir. Each one of them," a few of the men eagerly said at once. Most of them hung back and watched quietly as the large man inspected their girls.
The man nodded his head and turned the head of the girl next to Maron. He felt her lips and hands, arms and feet.
"Sir, we must ask you to refrain from getting carried away with our property," Maron's master said.
The man blushed and stood his full length. "I'll-" He stopped himself when another man came walking in. This one was much more lean than the first. He had muscle, true, but he was by far skinnier and lighter.
The first man snorted and finished, "I'll take this one right here." He pointed to the girl beside Maron.
"Ah, yes!" the girl's master chimed. "She is a very good choice; I think you'll find her very loyal."
The girl's master went up to the girl and brought her out from the line. He then waited for the man to pay up the suggested amount of money, which he did. Now, the final command before the girl could be truly sold...
The girl's master turned to her and said, "This nice gentlemen here is your new master. You will obey him from now on."
The fat man smirked at the skinnier man, and told his girl to come with him as he left the building. The lean man scowled; he might have wanted that girl above all others.
Now it was his turn to choose.
After about the same time the first man had spent searching, he picked the girl third to the end of the line, and took her to wherever she was destined to go.
Hours passed, nearly half the day, and men came and went. The young ladies had been standing in the same spot for all this time, and though they were beginning to tire out, they made no comment on it. They were not to speak unless told to speak or addressed by their masters. Then, an eighth man entered.
This man was pretty fat, but strong and filthy rich. And Maron's master, along with the others who hadn't sold their girls yet, knew this. However, they knew better and stepped back, allowing the man to start the long process of inspection.
Throughout the entire time, it was very unsure which girls he liked and disliked, or even if like or disliked any of them. He kept visiting each girl again and again; it was unclear which he would choose, if he decided to choose.
It may have simply been the imagination of Maron's master, but he seemed to pay the most attention to the brunette, the only brunette left. Not surprisingly, the brown-haired girls always sold much faster than the red-heads or blondes. Although there was one pink-haired girl that was yet to be sold off. She was smack in the middle of the remaining line. Nobody had picked her yet; she might not sell at all and they would have to dump her on the streets. This was a fate worse than death, because a girl who had been fully mannered wouldn't do a single thing until given an instruction by her master. So any girl who wouldn't sell would be dumped on the street and stay there until she died of dehydration or something else, such as a wild animal or sickness or being hit by a car.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the overweight man chose Maron as his slave girl. He paid a very hefty amount, more than the costs of any other girl, and waited patiently for the girl's master to say the words. He'd clearly done this before.
Maron's master came up to her and said, "This fine gentleman is your new master. You will obey him from now on."
Maron simply answered with a, "Yes, Master."
"Girl, come to me," the new master instructed.
"Yes, Master." Maron ran up to him and awaited further command.