The first thing Kaede Akamatsu registered was pain. A dull one, thankfully, but a persistant one, at the back of her head. Groaning, still drowsy, she lifted her hand to rub her head on instinct.
"...Huh?" She blinked as her senses came back with a new revelation: her wrist was handcuffed to the chair she was sitting in. Both wrists were. Ankles, too. Now fully awake (how could she not be when waking up to something like this?!), she started struggling in the seat, trying to get up, break out, figure out what the Hell was going on.
"Jeez, lay off the shaking, will ya? My hangover's not gone yet."
Kaede froze in place. She hadn't noticed the man sitting at the desk...if sitting were even the proper term for what he was doing. More like he was reclining, really, with his feet propped on the desk and his body leaning back as far as his chair would allow. It was hard to tell if he was awake or asleep, with the sunglasses over his eyes and his face up towards the ceiling. But if he just spoke...he was awake?
Lookkng past him, though, Kaede got a good look at where she was: an office, and a very neat one. White marble and red trimmings, dark oak furniture…and armed guards at the ready. Two of them, behind her on either side of the door. She could feel a knot in her stomach growing.
"Where am I?!"
The man hissed as he sat up, placing his hands on his ears, and Kaede glanced at the nameplate on the desk: Koichi Kizakura, Recruiter.
"C'mon, sis, no need to yell. I'm not gonna hurt you or anything. Neither are those guards, unless you act up. Really, they're just a precaution. Trust me, we have more dangerous people to worry about stopping by today." Koichi yawned, scratching his neck lazily. "But to answer your question, you're currently in my office in Hope's Peak Academy. I'm sure you've heard of this place?"
"H...Hope's Peak...?" Of course she had heard of this place!! Hope's Peak Academy had to be the most prestigious high school in Japan-no, the entire world. They scouted out the most talented all over the world, honing their skills and sending them into the world to bring hope and prosperity for years to come.
Koichi nodded. "Yup, you're currently in Hope's Peak Academy. I'd like to congragulate you, Miss Akamatsu. You've been recruited for our school."
Wait, what?! No way! Hope's Peak wanted her??? Kaede was getting excited, until she attempted to cover her mouth in surprise, only for the handcuff to jerk her back to her current situation. "Wait. If that's the case, why am I chained up?"
Koichi raised an eyebrow, but smiled. "What, did that bump on your head give you amnesia, kiddo? We both know why you're chained up."
Koichi leaned forward, putting his hand to his mouth as if to whisper. "Psst. Just between you and me, you've already been arrested. No need to feign innocence."
Arrested? No, that couldn't be right! "B-but I didn't do anything!"
Koichi winced. "Sheesh, you are one bad liar. What were the Mafia thinking, using you as a spy?"
Kaede sighed. No use hiding anymore, obviously. "Okay, okay! I wasn't that good a liar. And you're right, I'm a convicted felon now, I guess. Why would you even want me, then?"
"Luckily for you, it's not your spying skills or lying skills we're interested in." Koichi pulled a file out from his drawer. "No, you're going to be the new Super High School Level Pianist."
"W-What?" That struck a nerve with Kaede, but a positive one. "My piano playing is that good?"
He opened the file, looking through it. "Well, yeah! So many junior contests under your belt, and you went totally undetected in that bar for a year! I don't even know why they bothered arresting you, honestly. I would've just recruited you anyway."
"Then…you can let me go now, right? Since I'm not dangerous?"
"Unfortunately, Miss Akamatsu, I can't." He punctuated his sentence by shutting the file. "The public is already on our asses over the Reserve Course. They think those kids aren't getting a proper education. If we went ahead and let criminals into our school-even for small crimes like yours-they'd probably riot. No, we have a special plan for you."
"And what exactly is that plan?"
"There's a small island a ways from Japan. There was an old prison over there, last used in World War II. We've refurbished it and created a new sister school: the Gifted Inmates Academy. You and fifteen other students will be going there, learning, honing your talents…and with luck, you'll be considered rehabilitated and model citizens by the time you get out."
Kaede was silent a moment, thinking it over. "Would I get to see my family?"
"Of course! Well, not every day, obviously. There'll be visiting times scheduled and all that. There's far more to go over, but we'll be doing that on the island. That is…if you want to go. We'd need your consent, of course." He opened his desk again and pulled out a small stack of papers. "Contract, waivers, the usual."
"...What happens if I refuse?"
"Well, then we give you back to Japanese law enforcement and you go on with your life, with a criminal record and no SHSL Title. But you're a very smart girl, Kaede. This is a good opportunity. You can turn your life around, get on the public's good side, all that jazz. Think of us as your golden ticket." Koichi nodded to one of the guards, and the guard produced a key. "Now, you left or right handed?"
Her hand was unlocked, and Kaede read and signed the contract. Once done, she was free of the chair, but her hands were cuffed and she was escorted out by the guards. "I expect great things from you!" Koichi called as Kaede left, following the guards down the hall. As they walked, they crossed paths with another set of guards with another student. A boy was with them, dressed rather casually in a blue shirt and khaki pants. He had messy green hair and an easygoing air about him, and he gave Kaede a cool smile as he walked by. Kaede watched him go, before being urged on by the guards to keep moving. What had he done to be part of this program? Was it something minor, too? Or was he a murderer? Would there be murderers in this program?
Suddenly, Kaede started regretting ever signing up in the first place. Was this worth the SHSL title? The Hope's Peak brandname? She didn't know, and she couldn't know now. All she could do was follow the guards to what new life she was going to lead.