Full Metal Panic! - Volume 1 - Chapter Pr

"Pay attention, Sousuke!" 
In contrast to the after-school ruckus, Kaname Chidori spoke decidedly seriously. A strong-willed girl, her black hair reached her hips and was held in place by a neat red ribbon. She conducted her instructions to the male student in front of her with a rig,id index finger. 
"We need two-thousand sheets of letter-sized copy paper. It's in bundles of five-hundred sheets, so just sneak in and get four of those. Got it?" 
"Understood." Sousuke Sagara responded crisply. 
There was little about Sousuke that wasn't crisp-his words, his collar, and his movements all were rigid. His face was tense and unforgiving. 
He glanced at the door to the staff room. 
"You know where to find the paper, right?" 
"Yes. It's all the way in the back, next to the copier." 
"Good. Let's review the plan." 
"You'll create a diversion, engaging Mister Sayama in 
conversation. While you have his attention, I'll plunder the paper 
and make a speedy withdrawal." 
Satisfied, Kaname nodded. 
"I wouldn't call it 'plundering,' exactly. After all, it isn't our 
fault there was a staff miscommunication that led to a misprint on 
the Drawing Club's flyers! We're not plundering, we're just covering 
the losses." 
Deciding not to object to this justification, Sousuke focused on 
another concern. "What if your diversion doesn't provide sufficient 
cover? The teacher might notice." 
"It's your job to scheme, finding a way to get in and out 
"Very well, I will scheme." 
"Okay, Sousuke, let's go." 
Kaname led the way inside. She made her way toward the 
rear of the office, greeting all the teachers she knew along the way. 
Eventually, she reached the overused copier in the back. 
Next to the nearly obsolete machine, a forty-year-old social studies teacher sat grading tests. Kaname positioned herself between the man and the machine, hoping it was enough to keep him from spotting Sousuke. 
"Hello, Mister Sayama!" 
Mister Sayama's chair creaked as he swiveled to greet her. "Miss Chidori. What brings you here today?" "Well, I have a question that I forgot to ask yesterday." "When we were talking about ancient India?" "Yes. I have to know-in ancient India, did everybody have 
names as weird as Chandragupta II?" 
Mister Sayama laughed heartily. "That's a strange q~estion! But the name has a particular meaning. You see, the Gupta Empire-" 
Following the firecracker-like noise, thick white smoke spread through the air behind Kaname. 
"What the-" 
By the time Kaname turned around to see what had happened, she couldn't see two inches in front of her face. 
"What's happening?" demanded Sayama, coughing violently. 
The smoke began to spread through the staff room. One of the 
other teachers in the office screamed, then another. Soon, everyone 
was in a complete state of panic. 
"What is this?" Choking violently, Kaname steadied herself on 
a nearby bookshelf. Someone firmly grabbed her arm. 
"Mission accomplished. Speedy withdrawal." 
"Oh ..." 
With the bundles of paper under one arm and Kaname's wrist 
in the other, Sousuke emerged from the smoke; then, he made a break 
for the exit. 
"Save us! It's a fire!" yelled one teacher. 
The ceiling sprinklers activated, drenching the room. 
"Save us! It's a flood!" hollered another teacher. 
Pushing through the cacophony, Sousuke and Kaname rushed out of the staff office and continued running until they were safely in a far-off hallway. 
Kaname caught her breath. 
"We should be safe here," assessed Sousuke. both were soaked from head to toe thanks to the good intentions. 
Looking slightly less than amused, Kaname wrung the water from her skirt. 
"What on Earth was that?" 
"It was a smoke bomb," Sousuke answered matter-of-factly. 
"You said to scheme. The smoke bomb cut all the visibility in the office, so we could get the paper out safely without them seeing our faces. It's much more effective than a crude diversion. To avert suspicion, I'll make a phone call later as either the IRA or the JR A or some other terrorist organization claiming responsibility. That way-" 
Kaname delivered a right hook that sent Sousuke spinning to the floor. For about three seconds, he remained motionless. Then, he rose quickly to his feet. 
"That hurt." 
"Shut up! You ... you maniac war nut! What's the big idea? Look-you ruined the paper!" Kaname shoved the sopping bundles of paper in his face. "Perhaps we still could use it after we dry it." "You are such a moron! I don't care if you are some kind of secret mercenary-you need to learn some common sense!" 
Sousuke grew quiet and began to sweat. He looked like a cat that had been scolded for bringing home a gift of a decapitated mouse-he had been trying to help, in his own way. 
For Kaname, Sousuke's good intentions made it that much harder to chastise him. 
Oh, good grief, she thought, bringing her hands to her head. 
After all, it wasn't Sousuke's fault that he grew up in international hot zones and had no idea how to live in peaceful Japan. 
Consequently, no matter how hard he tried, everything he did seemed to backfire, creating trouble where none existed previously. 
Pretty much everyone at school thought he was an idiot ofthe highest degree. 
Jeez. What did I ever do to deserve someone this useless? Kaname lamented  internally. 
But Kaname already knew the answer. If she didn't, she would have stopped being his friend a long time ago. Kaname had an obligation to get into Sousuke's business, to lecture him, and to deal with the aftermath of his messes. There was a reason she could not hate him. 
She suddenly remembered the various complex reasons Sousuke was the way he was. 
She knew Sousuke had another identity, one that he kept secret from the rest of the students, who thought he was nothing more than a useless war nut. 
Outside the walls of the high school, Sousuke Sagara also was secretly a first-class soldier, part of a top-notch military organization. 
Kanarne knew this because of a certain incident. 
It was through this incident that Kaname and Sousuke had become acquainted. Kaname recalled the circumstances behind their meeting: There had been grave danger, blossoming feelings, and a huge mystery-one that remained partially unsolved. 
That event's aftereffects still lingered in their everyday.lives. 
Indeed, it all started one month earlier.... 

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