Chapter 1: Broken
Present day in a hidden underground facility.
Agony coursed through Runo's body, every nerve ending on fire, as painful memories relentlessly pounded his brain. An unrelenting electrical beam, like a merciless executioner, fried his insides. The chain-linked handcuffs that bound him were slowly but surely tearing his hands apart.
Desperation gnawed at Runo as he felt hope slipping away.
It... It... hurts!
The agonized murmurs gradually faded as Runo's strength faded. He no longer had the energy to speak.
Runo had been utterly and completely broken.
Present day at Penrith College.
A bustling corridor teemed with students as Arturo Lucian strode through it with a confidence that made him the center of attention. Whispers of admiration followed his every step.
"Wowzers, look at that shining hair!" Delighted whispers flowed through the crowd, captivated by Arturo's striking appearance.
His bright blonde hair caught the light, and he wore a stylish grey and dark grey plaid shirt that moved with effortless grace in the breeze. Underneath, a simple black t-shirt provided a sleek contrast. Dark blue jeans hugged his legs perfectly.
A few students couldn't resist snapping quick pictures of him on their phones, ready to share and gossip about their fantasies involving Arturo. He was undoubtedly popular, but not all the gazes upon him were filled with admiration; some harboured jealousy and resentment.
"Hey, I heard the Church of Phoebus is interested in sponsoring him!" Someone whispered to a friend. "They're probably just after his flashy gift. I'm pretty sure I could beat him in a duel with my abilities!" His friend scoffed, giving Arturo a disdainful look.
Just then, the bell rang, and the crowd dispersed as students headed to their respective classes. Arturo, too, made his way toward his classroom, only to be halted by a firm hand gripping his shoulder – it was Principal Nagel.
"Arturo, I need to speak with you for a moment. Please, follow me to my office," Principal Nagel requested. Arturo complied in silence, entering the office and taking a seat in front of the sturdy wooden desk. Principal Nagel settled into his chair with a heavy sigh.
"Arturo, you're seventeen now, and this is your final year with us. We've recently been presented with an opportunity to send our exceptional students to a special university called SAP University. It has been recently created after the 'Great Chaos'. They focus on helping students enhance their abilities, so they can become valuable contributors to our society, defending against threats and aggressors," Principal Nagel explained.
"What does SAP stand for?" Arturo inquired.
"Superior Ability Progression," Principal Nagel replied.
"Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that the Church of Phoebus has offered to sponsor you, provided you become their representative. However, that's a matter for you to discuss with them. I strongly urge you to consider this opportunity, Arturo. You're unique, not some weak, broken child," Principal Nagel encouraged.
Suddenly, Arturo was hit with a searing pain in his head.
"F**k!" Arturo silently screamed, clutching his head in agony, nearly tearing at his beautiful blonde hair.
"Arturo, are you okay?" Principal Nagel asked, concerned.
The pain vanished as suddenly as it had appeared, leaving Arturo with a peculiar idea and a sense of something forgotten.
"You know me, sir, I'm always all left," Arturo said, trying to push the recent experience aside.
"Ha! That's why I like you son, always giving me a laugh. Now, off to class. Come see me sometime next week, and we can discuss this further," Principal Nagel said.
Arturo hurried out, still checking his head to ensure nothing was amiss.
"Why does it feel like I'm forgetting something..."
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