A fic by Setsumi-san

Disclaimer: I do not own Shaman King in any way, shape, or form. All I own is the plot.

A.N. This story takes place just after Ren defeats Tao En. Words in italics indicate thoughts.

     Tao Jun let out a loud sneeze as a great cloud of dust billowed into her face. She had just opened the door to the filthy attic of the family mansion and had several kyonshi marching behind her. Her mother had requested that she supervise the task of organizing and sweeping the attic. This was not going to be a pleasant chore.

     Oh well, she thought, At least the kyonshi will be doing all of the heavy labor. All I have to do is manage them. Still, there were a hundred other things she would rather be doing at the moment. The young dao-shi walked inside and felt around for a light switch. Her palms made soft thumping noises against the attic wall as she groped it blindly. Ah, there it was!

     Click! With a flip of the wrist Jun turned on the single bare bulb that lit up the whole attic. She rubbed her eyes, let herself adjust to the sudden brightness, and then turned to the many kyonshi still waiting outside of the attic's entrance.

     "All of you get rid of this clutter. Pack it up, shove it aside, do what you must. But do a good job. I won't tolerate anything half-hearted," she commanded them. Automatically her workers obeyed like rusty robotic drones. The young lady plopped down on a nearby cardboard box and frowned in irritation. These zombies were so dull! Why should she have to watch them when they never made mistakes?

    "What can I do for you, Miss Jun?" a familiar voice asked.

    Jun turned around and saw her loyal mochirei Lee Pyron walking inside. A small smile appeared on her face. Pyron's presence always made her happy.

    Well not all zombies are dull, she thought. Pyron was not a mindless minion but a dear companion. Maybe this wasn't going to be so boring after all. It would be nice to have him by her side while she…well, while she did anything.

    "You don't have to do anything you don't want to. I have plenty of help. I'd hate to take up any of your time," Jun said.

    "Nonsense. I have all the time in the world. I am happy to do you favors," insisted Pyron.

    "Aren't you practicing your Daodan-do skills at all?"

    "I have been, but I can't do it all of the time. Daodan-do is not all physical. I seek to better myself overall through its philosophy. Being better as a whole means helping others, even if it is something as simple as cleaning up an attic."

    Jun stood up feeling satisfied. "You're right. Two are better than one. I'll work alongside you," she said to him. She began to straighten up the junk next to her, classifying everything and packing it into large piles. Pyron knelt beside his mistress and helped her in silence for a few minutes. A strange, awkward feeling soon overcame him.

    Say something you fool, Pyron mentally scolded himself. Ever since Jun's brother Ren had defeated the two siblings' father the strong fighter had carried a great burden on his shoulders. It was one of guilt and shame because he knew he could not protect the lovely Jun from all of the intense pain she had endured in that horrific dungeon. Even though he was being controlled it was no excuse. Since that battle Pyron felt awful knowing he was not there for the beautiful Jun…

    Lovely? Beautiful? Since when do I think of Tao Jun like that? he wondered. He pushed all worries to the back of his mind and began a new conversation.

    "So…how long has it been since you were last up here in this room?" he asked. It wasn't the most interesting topic, but it broke the silence.

    Jun paused a moment as she folded a thin scarf in her lap and thought.

    "Roughly five years," she answered. Pyron's eyes widened a little in surprise.

    "Really? That long? Has anyone else been up here during all that time?"

    "Ha, ha. I doubt it. The attic is just a place you forget about. It's like leftover food that no one wants."

    The kyonshi grinned. "I remember such a place at one of my old childhood homes: the garage. My father would be building a bookshelf, or a toolshed, or whatever his latest project was; and he would tell me to get a can of paint from the garage. I hated going in there."

    "Why did you hate it Pyron?"

    He sheepishly twiddled his thumbs for a second. "Well…besides the fact that it was hot and musty…I discovered my greatest fear there. When I was six years old I had gone into the garage one time to get paint, as usual, when I felt something scamper across my foot. I darn near screamed my head off! It was…" –here he shuddered a moment- "…It was a lizard. From then on I went hysterical with fear every time I saw one of those…things."

    Jun tried very hard to conceal her laughter. It wasn't working. Her cheeks puffed out like two peach-colored cotton balls from under her hand. To think the legendary tough-as-nails Lee Pyron would be frightened by a tiny lizard!

    Pyron cringed a little in embarrassment. "Are you laughing at me Miss Jun? You know, it's not a nice feeling to have scaly green feet run over you," he murmured in a slightly pouty tone. Well, with that Jun let her laughter finally spill out. The way he said the last sentence was so cute! It was as though a shy little boy were speaking.

    She sobered quickly. "I'm sorry Pyron. But I can't help but laugh when I think about someone as strong as you being scared of…ha ha ha ha ha! Ha…oh damn! I need to find where I left the masking tape in here so we can seal the boxes." The graceful girl got up off of the floor and started looking in a crowded corner.

    "Be careful," Pyron warned, "You don't want to trip over-".  Too late.

    Before he finished his sentence Jun stumbled over something on the hard wooden floor that she could not see. All at once there was a bright flash of white light, a click, and a loud whirring noise from below. She shut her eyes, lost her balance, and felt herself whirl in a complete circle.

    If one is blind the sensation of falling can be very terrifying. You forget where you are and who's around you. Time loses all meaning. All you can grasp is the present fear of uncertainty. Tao Jun was experiencing the uncertainty of a blind person's fall.

    She'll break her back!! was the first thing Pyron thought. Instinctively, he ran towards her like a bolt of lightning. Jun! Oh no, Jun! Don't fall before I can reach you! I swear I'll catch you!  He shot out his large, muscular arm toward her. Jun felt an iron grip around her wrist save her. Catching herself on her foot's edge, she found herself tripping forward instead of back. When she finally opened her eyes she felt her face against Pyron's chest.

    "Oh…" was the first word out of her mouth. She blushed furiously. She had never been this close to a man physically even if he was dead. What? What am I thinking? Pyron could never be like that to me! But he's so warm-hearted. I feel lightheaded.

    If the zombie were still alive his heartbeat would have been like hammer blows. The porcelain doll in his arms was so delicate. He wanted to hold this forbidden treasure forever, but knew he had to release her sometime. He gave her a few pats on the back that said an unspoken, "It's alright."  Then they slowly parted.

    "A-Are you okay?" Pyron stuttered to the priestess, embarrassed. Jun nodded quickly.

    "I'm…just a little dizzy," she replied. Another long pause passed. Only the noise of the other kyonshi could be heard as they slaved away. Jun tried to speak again, but nothing came out. All she could do was stare at the mighty oak tree of a man before her. Lee Pyron was breathtaking.

    Once again Pyron felt the need to break the ice so he asked her what she tripped over. Shaking herself out of a stupor; Jun looked down and saw something that had not been used in the family for years: an old camera. It was the kind with a large flashbulb that took only black and white film. People in 1910 would have used it all the time.

    "I can't believe this still works! I thought my grandfather threw it out years ago," Jun murmured in awe. She picked up the camera and fondled it with her slender fingers.

    "Does it mean a lot to you?" asked Pyron. His mistress did not answer at first; the antique still seemingly enchanted her to no end. "Miss Jun?" he said in a slightly louder voice. She slowly turned toward him with a sad expression on her face.

    "Did the camera mean a lot to me? Yes and no. I have a lot of mixed feelings about this thing. On one hand I was fascinated with it because it was one of the more modern machines our family owned. My father didn't like to have many complicated things that ordinary humans used. He said they would poison the mind. Since such things were usually forbidden Ren and I naturally became drawn to it. Can you understand?" Jun said softly. Her mochirei could not, but nodded anyway. Why would anyone treat a camera like it was an apple from the Garden of Eden? There was still so much he had to learn about the Taos.

    She continued, " On the other hand every time I see the camera I'm reminded of the photos it took. Ren and I would always be standing at attention like soldiers in the army. If you look back at our past photos you would never see us smile. Anyone else would, but not us. To this day I feel silly when someone asks me to smile for a picture. I wish I didn't.".

    Suddenly Pyron became filled with a fierce determination to cheer her up. He didn't know why but he just had to! He boldly took Jun's hand in his own and smiled.

    "Miss Jun," he began, "You have been working very hard. Why don't you take a break? I'll…take it with you if you want me too." Please say yes. Please say yes. I'll do anything if you just let me come with you, he silently begged.

    "I…would like that very much…very much," she said. She colored prettily and the two went downstairs not even aware they were holding hands the whole time.

    SNAAAAAARRRRRKKKK!!!! That was the ear-splitting noise heard from a small room two floors downstairs. Jun and Pyron had been scared out of their wits when they first heard it. It sounded like a wild animal was loose in the house. However, it was no wild animal. They had quietly peeked into the little room and then let out a sigh of relief and exasperation.

    "Ren…" Jun muttered under her breath. Her little brother was sprawled out on a couch snoring his head off. A small waterfall of drool was cascading out of the side of his mouth into a little pool.

    An idea popped into Pyron's head when he saw this scene. He smirked mischievously.

    "Hand me that camera Miss Jun," he whispered to her.

    "Why? What are you going to do with it?" she whispered back.

    "You'll see," he said. He held it up to his face, leaned down to Ren's own, and put his finger above the flash button.

    "Pyron, no!" Jun hissed. Ren would be furiously angry if he were woken up like that!

    Click! Flash! Whir! The martial artist had pressed the button causing the flash to go off. Tao Ren woke up startled, snorting, and blinking his eyes. What the…? What happened? Why am I seeing spots?!  Can't a man get any rest around here?! He rubbed his eyes and looked around but saw no one in the room. Muttering a few vulgar things in Chinese Ren rolled over on the couch. He knew someone was messing with him and they would pay…after forty winks.

    Meanwhile Pyron and Jun were running as fast as possible down the hall. The two rushed out onto a balcony and nearly collapsed on the ground panting. Pyron was laughing heartily but Jun was not so pleased.

    "You… (pant)…you fool! My brother needs all the rest he can get! He is working like a dog so that he may become Shaman King and here you are playing pranks on him! I would think you would be more mature," she said in between breaths.

    Pyron looked as though he'd been slapped for a second. He turned his face away from her and mumbled something inaudible.

    "And just what was that?" she spat out, still glaring bloody daggers at him.

    "I'm very sorry," he repeated, "I only wanted to make you happy. When you were talking to me in the attic a few minutes ago you sounded so forlorn that I just wanted to do something that would make you laugh or feel better. I wasn't thinking. I am very sorry."

    Now it was Jun's turn to look like she had been slapped. A wave of guilt washed over her.

    "You were thinking about my feelings all along?"

    "Well, yes…"


    "Jun, I really wish you wouldn't feel silly when someone asks you to smile for a photo. Whenever you smile you look exquisite. Just think, if I took your photo I could look at your beautiful face whenever I wanted to!" Pyron blurted out.

    Jun's jaw almost fell through the floor. "W-w-what?" she stammered. How poetic!

    Oh no, oh no! Did I just say that out loud? Lee Pyron, you idiot! You freak! he thought to himself in a panic. He did not notice Jun scooting closer to him.

    "Pyron…that's the best compliment I've heard in a long time. Do you really think I am exquisite? Because I think you are," she breathed. The man was speechless. The two leaned in a little closer to each other.

    Then Jun got suddenly frightened. She sprang up and rushed over to the other side of the balcony huffing and puffing. The object of her affection ran after her, concerned.

    "Tao Jun…?" he asked. She was shivering!

    "We shouldn't feel this way. I'm alive. You're dead. If we let ourselves do this…" she paused, her eyes as big as dinner plates with fear. Pyron waited patiently for his beloved to continue.

    "P-Pyron…if we let ourselves do this…there are certain boundaries I m-m-must draw…certain things I would never do with you," she stammered.

    He knew what she meant.

    "That is something I agree wholeheartedly on. Besides, it's not like a corpse could do such things," he stated. Jun slowly turned around to face him. A cold wind blew. They gazed into each other's eyes for a minute.

    "Jun? May I at least hope for a kiss from your beautiful lips? That's all I ask if you do not mind," he stated truthfully.

    Tao Jun held his hand in silence knowing they both had the same thought: We're not sure. And yet…

    Slowly but surely Pyron wrapped his mighty arms around Jun's waist. She linked her own slender ones around his neck. Together their lips shared a soft, sweet kiss that was not too dramatic, not too awkward, but just right. When they finally parted all of their worries dissolved into nothingness. Jun gave her dearest a genuine, happy, relaxed smile and Pyron took her picture. If you look on the last page of the Tao family's most current photo album you will see her snapshot as she stands on the balcony against the clouds.

    Setsumi-san: Awww! Now isn't that just so sweet that it makes you get cavities?

    Ren: (making gagging noises in the back of his throat)

    Setsumi-san: Shut up, you! Be happy for your sister!

    Ren: I still hate romance.

    Setsumi-san: You people know what to do! Click the pretty review button at the bottom and tell me what you think. You know you want to do it. (waves goodbye)