This was a request originally for rallamajoop's 104 AU request meme that didn't make the list. When I read it, though, I was struck with sudden inspiration. Both liriel (the prompter) and rallamajoop gave the okay, so here's the finished product.
Prompt: Watanuki is a modern day harpist in an orchestra and inherits an allegedly cursed harp. He doesn't believe in the curse but his superstitious conductor insists that Watanuki takes the harp to a shinto priest.
Review, please! There may be a sequel series at some point, meaning after I at least finish some of my smaller projects.
"This is ridiculous," Watanuki muttered underneath his breath for what was probably the tenth time in the past five minutes, looking up at the temple in front of him. "Who would believe a story about a cursed harp? I don't even know the thing is cursed at all! And since when do curses exist to begin with?"
"What's cursed?" asked a disturbingly monotone voice from behind him, and Watanuki came face to face with the man who must have been the priest here. The man was dressed simply, and held a broom in one hand, but somehow managed the convey his authority here. Watanuki disliked him immediately, though if asked he couldn't have said why.
This did, however ensure that his irate reply of "Have you no knowledge of greeting customs? And it's a harp!" was of less decorum than was generally displayed to a religious figure. Watanuki wondered if being less than charitable to rude priests would count against him spiritually, and figured he was probably doomed if this were so. As the priest's eyes bored into him without managing to lose the bored expression, Watanuki further concluded that he was entirely justified in the action and sentiment, unholy as it may be.
"I don't even know if it's cursed," he added irritably. "I mean, when I inherited it I was told it was cursed, but I don't know if that's true or not. You probably don't believe me, but the conductor said –"
"It's cursed," the priest said in the same disinterested tone as before.
Watanuki stared in skeptical disbelief. "And you just know like that? Don't you have some sort of ritual for that?"
"That would be pointless." Taking the harp case from Watanuki's unattended grasp, the priest turned walked toward the shrine.
"Wait!" called Watanuki indignantly. "How long will this take?"
The priest eyed his captured prize dubiously, though it was very faint. "A week if I keep it under perfect conditions," he appeared to decide.
"I need it back before then!" the rightful owner of the harp protested. "We have a concert in three days and rehearsals each day prior!
"That's how long it will take," the man currently in possession of it replied. "Unless you want to bring it for a shorter amount of time daily. It would take much longer that way, however."
That option had merit, although Watanuki hated to admit that this man could have a good idea of his own. "How much longer?"
"Around three months," the priest told him. "I'll expect some sort of payment in exchange for the trouble. Come back in two hours." And as if this was settled, he continued on his way into the shrine. Had any onlookers been around, they would have been astonished at the shade of angry red that Watanuki's visage had become.
"Where does he get the right to just decide that?!" demanded the more than slightly agitated harpist to the unresponsive temple yard. "I never agreed to anything!"
He didn't receive a proper reply, but could have sworn he heard a muttered "idiot" drift from the direction that the priest had taken.
"You made the hanazushi?" the priest, whom Watanuki had by now learned had the sadly characteristic name of Doumeki Shizuka, asked in a manner that clearly stated he expected nothing but an affirmative answer. Of course, since his requests were exact and mandatory if Watanuki wanted his harp to be de-cursed, there would only be an affirmative answer. But that wasn't that point.
"What's with that attitude of yours?" Watanuki demanded. "Priests aren't supposed to be so demanding! Andyes, I made the hanazushi. You had damn well better appreciate it. It's not every day you get to eat food hand made by the great chef Watanuki-sama!"
Doumeki considered. "Actually, yes, it is."
"Oh, shut up," Watanuki retorted, lacking a better comeback.
"Why didn't you just go into a culinary career?" Doumeki asked some days later.
Thinking of his father, Watanuki did not reply immediately. "It wasn't my own realm," he finally said, with more calm and thought than he normally put into conversation with the priest. "Music was something I learned myself."
"My grandfather was head priest here," remarked Doumeki.
"Not everyone carries on the family tradition, you know!" snapped Watanuki. "Some of us have originality in our lives!"
"Or sore spots," the priest added thoughtfully, and by the time Watanuki figured out what was meant by this, it was too late to yell at him.
"Are you married?" Watanuki asked curiously one day as he served up the latest requests.
Doumeki raised both eyebrows, but merely replied, "No."
The harpist blinked and quirked his head in relative surprise. "No? Then who is she?" He gestured out the window and into that of another temple building. Doumeki followed his gaze and frowned ever so slightly.
"I see no one," he said.
Watanuki looked back at the priest, back toward the woman in the window, and repeated this pattern. "But she's right there."
There was a long silence as Doumeki stared at him, obviously thinking a great deal (which probably taxed the man's intellectual capacity to breaking point). "So you're one of them," he said at length.
"What's that supposed to mean?!" demanded Watanuki, but the priest simply made another request and did not explain.
Watanuki was running several minutes late and thoroughly annoyed about the fact that this was so. This served to make him annoyed that being late to Doumeki's temple could make him annoyed, which increased his annoyance exponentially. And so it was a very agitated and rather rageful Watanuki who came ranting in through the temple gates and almost smack into the priest who waited expectantly for him.
"What is it now?" the harpist demanded, perhaps a little more vehemently than the situation called for. Doumeki was unfazed.
"Your harp's done," he simply replied.
"What about my –" Watanuki broke off, the comment registering belatedly with his thought process. "Oh. Is it?" he finished lamely.
"The curse is gone from the harp," Doumeki restated.
"So I'm done, then?" Watanuki inquired, feeling an odd sense of anticlimax and surely that was not disappointment of all things. "Well, uh…I guess – I mean…" Thank you, he meant to add, but couldn't quite bring himself to do so. It was Doumeki, after all, and priest or no priest the man was far too annoying.
"You harp is," Doumeki repeated. "But there was an unexpected side effect to its time in your possession." He paused and eyed the harpist speculatively. "The curse transferred itself to you," he explained.
"What?!" exploded Watanuki. "You mean to tell me that all that work was for absolutely nothing? That I'm still stuck with the damn curse? What does it do, anyway?"
"I wouldn't say it was all for nothing," Doumeki replied. "I enjoyed it."
"That's all fine and good for you!"
"The curse on the harp was a form of possession," the priest continued, ignoring the outburst as too commonplace to bother responding to. "In your case, you're now vulnerable to the type of being that could have possessed the harp."
"Why does this kind of thing always happen to me?" cried Watanuki. "First the harp, now this –"
"I can try to break the curse," Doumeki continued, now with a finger in his ear to prevent lasting damage.
"You would do that?" Perhaps Watanuki had judged the priest a little too harshly at first, if Doumeki was willing to correct the side effects of his first attempt.
"Same arrangement as before," the priest replied. "For dinner, I want skewered chicken."
Forget that. The man was a complete bastard, no mistake at all. "You just want the cooking, I bet," Watanuki muttered to himself.
Doumeki apparently heard. "That was one motive," he said.