A/N: Apologies for the long absence. A combination of burnout from work & back pain have been severely impacting my writing brain cells, but things are slowly improving and I'm doing my best to get back in the routine of things. To help get me started, here's a sneak preview of the next chapter!
"Hey, Komachi. Which suit do you think would look better on me," I asked, holding the two least objectionable of Dad's suits out at shoulder length, one in each hand. "Should I go with the white suit coat and the purple shirt?" I asked. "Or should I go for a more classic look?" I hoisted the charcoal grey suit in turn.
My sister, who had been happily lying on the couch watching Saturday morning cartoons, looked up and stared at me, unimpressed. "What do you need a suit for?" She asked, eyeing me suspiciously. "Are you going somewhere fancy?"
I laughed nervously. "So, uh, it turns out I kind of… have to go to the Hosu Charity Ball." I swallowed, pasting a smile on nervously. "It's, uh, later tonight," I said vaguely. "It's not exactly, uh, official hero work, but it'd be really good if I went."
Komachi's eyebrows rose in alarm. "The Hosu Charity Ball," she said, deadpan.
"Yeah," I said.
She picked up her phone, typed a few phrases, and turned her screen towards me, revealing dozens of photos of heroes and other celebrities walking down an honest-to-god red carpet. "This Hosu Charity Ball?" She asked.
"I'm, uh, pretty sure," I said nervously.
Komachi stared at me, her eyes full of derision and disbelief. "You can't go to a society event in one of Dad's suits, onii-chan."
I winced. "I mean… are you sure?" I asked.
"There are going to be reporters there, yes I'm sure!" Komachi said, aggrieved. "What - how - why are you going to a major society event if you don't even know anything about it?" She asked me.
It was a question that I wished I had asked myself before today. "Uh, well…" I began. "Someone on the movie set needed a plus one, and I sorta owed them a favor, so…" I equivocated, not really wanting to explain the whole 'is this blackmail or a date' situation to my little sister. For one, I would have to explain just what I was being blackmailed over.
My sister rolled her eyes at me and sat back down heavily on the couch. "Just go in your hero costume," she said. "Technically real heroes have like, extra fancy costumes that they wear only on special occasions, but you're a student so probably nobody will say anything or care."
It was good advice. There was just one problem. "So, uh… my costume is still kind of bloodstained and cut up from this weekend," I said, blushing slightly in embarrassment. "I didn't think I would need it while I was on mandatory rest, so I was planning on turning it in to be fixed up on Monday instead of making an extra trip."
Predictably, Komachi's mood dropped at the mention of how I'd gotten hurt fighting Stain. "You dummy," she muttered, picking up a pillow almost unconsciously and hugging it to her chest so tightly I could almost see the fibers giving up in distress. "Maybe if you stopped bleeding all over your costume you wouldn't have this problem."
As helpful of a suggestion as that was, it wasn't exactly like I could change the past. "I'll keep that in mind," I drawled uncomfortably, "but since I don't have that option?" I raised my dad's suits back up a little higher in the air. "Left or right?" I asked.
In retrospect, maybe I should have just gone with one of Dad's cheap suits, or maybe gotten a rental for the night. I was only attending this thing in the first place because of blackmail, so even if I had come across as being a reluctant participant, it's not like it would have caused that big of a deal. But at the time, a part of me was sort of looking forward to the idea of going to a fancy party for Important People, so when Komachi scoffed, and said with disgust "Neither. You should call your school and see if they have a spare costume for you, or call a friend and see if they have a suit that isn't ugly you can wear, or something. Don't you have any friends who actually know anything about fashion?"
I'm ashamed to admit it, but I decided to call Kawasaki Saki.
"Hikigaya-kun?" There's a certain… energy, when you're calling someone for the first time. Whether it's a total stranger, or someone you've known in person for a while, the impersonal, mechanical act of dialing those numbers and listening to the phone ring always makes my heart climb its way into my throat, and the fact that I was calling an attractive girl who might maybe, possibly, be interested in me, didn't make it any easier. "I, uh, what's up?" Kawasaki Saki's voice said into my ear. She didn't sound unhappy to hear from me, part of my brain noted; she sounded part curious, part cheerful, nothing like the wary defensiveness I was used to hearing from girls who ran into me in the hall in middle school.
"Um, are you busy today?" I asked, already feeling like a jerk for asking.
"Today?" Kawasaki said in what sounded like pleased surprise. In the background, a spate of yelling and what sounded like banging pots and pans intruded into the call. "I was just hanging out with Keika for a little bit, but other than that I'm more or less free. Why, what's up?"
I let out a long, heavy sigh. "I really probably shouldn't be asking this of you," I admitted, "but I could really use your help. I'm having kind of a… costume emergency," I said.
"A… huh?" Kawasaki asked, sounding confused and slightly disappointed for some reason.
"So, uh, you know how I fought Stain earlier this week?" I said.
Kawasaki snorted in derision. "No, I somehow managed to miss that fact despite you sending me pictures, the news reporting on it non-stop for several days, and the fact that it's all anybody is talking about at school this week," she said sarcastically.
I winced. "Okay, okay, stupid question," I said. "The thing is, my costume is kinda toast," I said. "Cuts, bloodstains, that sort of thing. And, uh. Apparently all of a sudden I have to go to a formal event this weekend?"
"What kind of formal event?" Saki asked.
Nervously, I said, "the, uh, have you heard of the Hosu Charity Ball?"
"Oh, shit," she said.
"Yeah." I said.
"Oh, shit, the Hosu Charity Ball?"
"Yeah," I repeated, my stomach sinking. Was this an Event? Had my perpetual ignorance of media events risen to bite me in an unmentionable location? Between Komachi and Kawasaki, I was belatedly realizing that I had done an insufficient amount of panicking over the past several days, as unusual for me as that was. "So, uh, what do you recommend? Should I find, like, a rental suit? Or…"
She paused for a few seconds. "That's, like, probably your best option? Like, you could call UA, they're really good about replacing uniforms, but it's usually like a 24 hours thing." She paused, "It's a shame, because, uh… this might sound kind of weird, but, uh, I maybe have some designs. Of like, the kind of high fashion, half-costume half-formalwear types of things that Pro Heroes wear to things like this, when they can, I mean. And, uh, some of those designs would probably actually work for you? But... unless you know somebody who can put together an entire outfit in, like, hours, I think you're probably gonna be out of luck. Like, maybe if you'd given me a day, I could have worked all night on it, but you're talking about needing it literally this evening, right?"
"I mean, I wasn't trying to call you for a suit to wear, I was just looking for an expert opinion," I said reassuringly - and then I stopped. "But, uh… I actually do know someone like that. Should I make a few calls?"
In another universe, standing around half-naked in front of two attractive girls my age would be something titillating, a prelude to scenes only publishable in unofficial doujinshi. As was depressingly usual with such circumstances, however, I was mostly concerned with the possibility of imminent bloodloss. I did my best to hold still as a gleaming silver pin came uncomfortably close to piercing my inner thigh. "No way," Kawasaki said, staring with undisguised envy at Yuigahama Yui, "you interned with Best Jeanist? What was it like?" She asked.
The three of us had met up at UA, since Kawasaki didn't have enough of the right kinds of fabric at her house. The Costume Laboratory, on the other hand, was well supplied with conventional materials of all sorts of colors and thicknesses, and had a fair selection of metafabrics to go with. I swear I saw Yuigahama's eyes sparkle as she stepped inside, and the two of them had talked about colors and cuts for a few minutes that went entirely over my head before turning me into their mannequin. As I stood there and tried not to flinch while they pinned fabrics in a rough facsimile of how the final product would look, I almost wondered if they even remembered I was actually present, rather than just a doll for them to dress up. Suffice it to say, my guilt at dragooning them into making me clothes at the last minute was rapidly dwindling. "Honestly?" Yuigahama said, running her finger down a chalked-out pattern on a spread of fabric and effortlessly cutting it to specifications. "He was kinda pushy."
"No!" Kawasaki said, scandalized, as she continued placing sharp objects up and down my inseam. "He always seems so nice in interviews, though!"
"I mean…" Yuigahama said as she picked up the cut fabric and fastened it into a tuxedo vest. "So, my costume is, like, this Sentai homage, right? Like, I picked it because it was the sort of thing I used to watch with my dad, it worked super efficiently with my quirk, I really liked it. And the very first day, Best Jeanist tells me it isn't good enough and sticks me in this super frilly, practically Gothic Lolita dress."
Kawasaki gasped in outrage, stabbing a pin into the outside of my leg with enough force that I twitched. "He just changed your costume?" She said, idly thwacking my leg to remind me to stay put.
"I know!" Yuigahama said, picking up what looked like a jacket and lining up a shiny inner lining for it. "And I mean, like, half of me was like, 'oh my god this is such an honor Best Jeanist designed a costume for me' and the other half was, like, 'oh my god what the heck am I wearing, this is so not me,' you know?"
Kawasaki's eyebrows creased at her sympathetically. "I mean, I can just imagine," she said.
"But, like, the next day he changed his mind and put me in, like, this… belly dancer outfit?" Damn, I would have to see if Bakugo had any pictures of that. "And then the next day, he had me wear a long cloak, and then he had me wear a suit and tie, and like, all of the costumes had different moves that were easier in them and ones that were harder, and eventually I was like, oh, maybe I should be thinking about more costumes than just, like, a bodysuit. So, I mean, it was way less rude than I thought it was going to be originally? But it was also, just like, he could have told me instead of just doing it to me, you know?"
"Mmmh," Saki made a noise around the mouthful of pins she was holding on to, seemingly all ready to be stabbed into my delicate bits as soon as I made an untoward move. "Seriously, people who make you read between the lines and don't just say things straight out are the worst," she said - a statement that was totally justified, in my opinion. Who wanted to play guessing games with something as important as their career? "It sounds like it wasn't all bad, though, at least?" She asked.
Yuigahama shook her head, smiling. "Nuh-uh, I totally learned a lot," she said. "And I had Bakubaku there, so it wasn't like I could get all lonely for being away from home even if I wanted to."
"Bakubaku?" Saki asked archly. Actually, looking at it from an external point of view, that probably sounded like a pet name or something, didn't it? The thought of Yuigahama being romantically interested in Bakugo couldn't help but turn my stomach a little bit, and if I was anywhere other than standing in front of a girl who I'd been maybe-flirting with over text for weeks I might have mistook the emotion for jealousy.
"Oh! Um, Bakugo Katsuki, he's in me and Hikki's HEART group. He's… um, well, he's super loud and angry most of the time, so I like to tease him a little bit, but he' s really not that bad when you get to know him!" Yuigahama said hurriedly.
I raised an eyebrow at that. "I'm not sure getting to know him actually makes him any more tolerable," I said. "Social conventions just make it harder to say anything about it."
Yuigahama glanced over at me, as if she'd just remembered I was there, and laughed nervously. "Well, um, Best Jeanist spent, like, the whole internship trying to teach Bakubaku social skills, so um, maybe some of it will stick?" She said hopefully. I'd believe it when I saw it.
"Okay, Hikigaya," Saki suddenly said. "Go behind the screen and take these pants off - carefully, you don't want to stretch the fabric around the pins. And take your shirt off, we need to fit the jacket."
"I can put my regular pants back on, right?" I confirmed as I started shucking the costume pants off. Thank god I'd put on a t-shirt that was a little bit long and hung down a bit past my waist today, the extra fabric had helped preserve a shred or two of my modesty. I was more than happy to take it off if it meant I got to put pants back on, though.
"Yup, go ahead." As I finished getting changed, I couldn't help but listen to the girls continue to talk. "Oh my god, Yui-chan, you're so fast! Your quirk is amazing for this sort of thing."
"Hehe, you think so?" Yuigahama laughed, sounding pleased. "I tried making clothes and costumes a few times before, but I never really thought they looked that good," she admitted. "The first few times I did it, I didn't know how to do seams? So everything I made came out looking weird and smooth." Her voice paused for a second. "Like that, see? It doesn't look good except on, like, t-shirts and stuff, and even then I have just the hardest time making collars and cuffs come out right."
"What the -" Kawasaki sputtered. "Are you seriously fusing the fabric together? Just, like, un-cutting it?"
"No, no, see? I'm just… smooshing the two sides on top of each other, and sorta, like, weaving them together? It's still twice as thick where things are joined, there just aren't any stitches to mark out where they're stuck together unless I go back and add that later."
"... You can do double-sided blind seams without even needing a needle, but you can't actually sew a cuff? Okay, so your quirk is still broken, it's just not literally magic. You know what? Fine, I can work with that. Do your fancy smooshing thing on Hikigaya's pants." She took a breath, and raised her voice slightly. "Hikigaya! Come give Yui your pants so she can smoosh them."
I stepped out, pants-clad and shirtless, as requested. I bit my tongue to avoid the dozens of innuendos that immediately sprang to mind in response. "Here you go," I muttered, trying not to flush as Kawasaki stared at my shirtless torso with a critical eye.
Kawasaki seemed to flush herself, all of a sudden picking up a pile of fabric and thrusting it at me. "Here. Put this on. I need to see if we sewed it right."
I grabbed the shiny black bundle and shook it out, revealing… "a leather jacket?" I said, confused. The fabric felt strangely silky and stretchy under my fingers, definitely not leather at all, but it was almost impossible to tell at first glance.
Kawasaki saw the confusion in my eyes and stepped forwards, her fingers working together nervously. "So, uh, basically, your personal 'image' adheres pretty closely to classic hero fashion, in that you wear the, uh, classic bodysuit, which has super clean lines, and then the cape on top, which breaks up the design with that, um, billowy look, you know? But, I noticed that when you wear your cape and put stuff in its pockets, it starts falling more straight and that ruins the effect a bit, and it's probably annoying when the stuff in your pockets keeps bumping into you." Actually, now that she mentioned it, that had been bothering me for a while. Before I could compliment her for noticing a small detail like that, though, she kept talking. "And also, the bodysuit and cape look is pretty classic, but it's also a little generic? So I thought, what about a hooded jacket? It's metamaterial, so it should stretch with you if you need to shapeshift, and it's way more appropriate than the long cloak for a formal occasion. It's a little bit more of an, uh, angular look than the billowy look you're used to, but I think it'll look really good on you. If it fits right, anyway." Finally, she tapered off, looking at me expectantly.
Bemused at the rapid-fire explanation, I shrugged the jacket over my bare shoulders. It didn't feel like leather at all - the fabric slid over my skin effortlessly, and it didn't seem like it would be overly hot to wear while moving around. "I like it," I said, shifting back and forth slightly, moving my arms around to make sure I had a full range of motion. In the mirror, I could see the effect Kawasaki was going for as the lower half of the jacket emphasized my abdominal muscles.
Kawasaki, for her part, looked at me and bit her thumb with irritation. "I think the seam on the backpiece needs to come up a millimeter," she said, sounding frustrated. "Yui-chan, could you…?" She trailed off.
Yui stood up from where she had been leaning over a workbench and came around to my back. "This one here, right?" She said. I felt her poke me in the back, roughly level with my armpits.
"Yeah. Hikigaya, take the shirt off so Yui-chan can fix it," Kawasaki said, but before I could comply, Yuigahama spoke up.
"No, hold still," she said, "I think I can do it from here." I fought a sudden shiver as the fabric on my back wriggled and writhed, almost like a line of ants walking across my shoulders. "How does it look now?" She asked.
For just a second, I saw sheer envy in Kawasaki Saki's eyes, but she pushed it down and smiled. "That's perfect. Okay, Hikigaya, take it off, and stand over here. We need to get your top fitted."
Oh good, more pins. Only the fact that these girls were doing me a massive favor kept me from rolling my eyes and sighing at the thought. Bracing myself, I stood and held my arms out to the side, accepting my fate.
I didn't know anything about costume creation, but I knew that it wasn't quick. Even with Yuigahama helping, the clock kept ticking ever closer to when I would have to leave to make it to Hosu. All of the measurements were taken, the only things left were the final touches, and I had apparently distracted Kawasaki and Yuigahama badly enough with my hovering that they'd kicked me out of the room entirely. To be fair, I had asked if there was anything I could do to help, but apparently a 'total amateur like me' would be 'worse than useless at this point,' so I was abandoned to staring at my phone in the hallway. As an upside, it meant that when Cyberpunch called, I could pick up on the first ring. "Hello?" I asked.
Over the earpiece, I heard a sharp inhale, followed by a soft exhale - Cyberpunch was smoking again. "Hey, kid. How are you feeling?" She said, her voice slightly husky.
"Oh, um, doing well," I said, not even having to lie. "I mean, I lost some weight again, but I've been putting it back on just fine, and I'm not feeling wiped out like I was the first few days."
"That's good to hear," Cyberpunch said, a smile in her voice.
There was a pause for several seconds. I heard Cyberpunch inhale sharply again, but when she continued not to speak I started getting nervous. "Um, what about you?" I eventually said. "Is everything okay?"
I heard her cough in surprise. "Who, me? I'm fine! Haha, yup, totally fine. Totally." My eyes narrowed as I heard the subtle note of embarrassment in her voice. "It's, um… anyway, I had a sudden case come up where you might be helpful. It'd be an, uh, off-the-books situation, but I figured… wait, before that. Do you have plans tonight?"
"Tonight?" I said with surprise. "I, um, actually…"
"Shit," she said, grumbling. "Of course."
"I mean, if it's a case that would take priority," even as I was about to finish the sentence, the sheer amount of time and effort that Kawasaki and Yuigahama had been putting in made me hold my tongue. Could I really dismiss all of their hard work at the drop of a hat like that? And I didn't know what the consequences would be of standing up Manaka, either.
Luckily, before I had to make the difficult choice, Cyberpunch saved me from having to do so. "No, no, it's nothing like that," she said, "I was just going to see if you, uh… wanted to grab food and talk about the case, that's all. I really was just looking for a, uh, a second opinion on some things, but there are other people I can call. We can catch back up another time, if I don't figure it out on my own first anyway, haha, I mean it was probably a dumb idea to begin with, I don't need UA or the Hero Commission getting mad at me."
"I, um, I'm really sorry," I said, my relief at the fact that it was nothing major warring with my disappointment that there hadn't been an opportunity to get back involved with the Nomu case.
"Don't worry about it," she said, "it was just a last minute idea. Anyway, look, I gotta go, but I'll talk to you later."
I let out a heavy sigh as my mentor hung up, only to jump as Kawasaki's voice suddenly intruded on my self-recriminations. "Hikigaya?" She called from the open doorway. "Come on back, it's ready for you to try on."
Swallowing hard, I followed her back into the costuming room. This was it, the moment of truth. If this didn't look good, I was going to have to figure out a backup plan really quickly - and given that it was already four thirty in the afternoon, and I had to get halfway across Tokyo before seven, said backup plan would probably be 'wear one of dad's suits and hope nobody notices me.' But as I went behind the changing screen and started putting the suit on, I was pleasantly - very pleasantly - surprised. A lot of the changes were subtle, especially from the torso down. The white 'boots' on the feet had been replaced in favor of making the white stripes on the outside of my legs wider and letting them continue all the way down to my ankles, but it was still more or less the same design, just more flattering somehow. The costume no longer had a panel to make it look like there was a belt; instead, my entire upper torso was now a light grey, cutting down in a T-shape with its base beginning just below the bottom of my abdominal muscles. The number 108 was still emblazoned along my sides in white letters on black, but the lines were thinner and the wrap-around effect stretched a little further, making them more visible from the front but also slightly less obviously numerals, for more of a design-element look. It was obvious that Kawasaki had put a lot of thought into how to take my existing costume and make it work even better, and it was simultaneously flattering and a little uncomfortable that she had been observing me so closely.
If the bottom two-thirds of my costume had been a redesign, however, the top was a major departure from what had come before. If the bottom part of my outfit was all superhero, the top was … technically reminiscent of a suit, enough to be worn to a 'formal' event, but the buckles and seams on the jacket, and the leather-like shine to it, made it look more like I was planning on crashing a party than attending it. The biggest change, though, was the neckline. Instead of a scarf-like collar and a mask that hid my face, the new costume was wide open, flaring at the neck into a high collar that joined at the back to a slightly stiff open hood. It was a little unnerving, honestly. My face was on display, and I had nothing to hide behind.
I stared at myself in the mirror for a second before nervously stepping out into the room.
Kawasaki broke out into a wide grin, and Yuigahama's eyes sparkled, as soon as they both saw me. "Hikki you look so good!" Yuigahama said, then immediately put a hand up to her mouth. "I mean, the costume does! It's so different from before!"
As she finished looking me over, Kawasaki met my eyes with a confident grin. "So, what do you think?" She asked. "It's good, right?"
Even if I hadn't liked it, Kawasaki and Yuigahama had both just spent six hours of their Saturday helping put this costume together. The table in front of the two of them was littered with drawings and patterns and fabric scraps and spools of thread, as if in testament to their efforts. Yuigahama was sweating faintly from the exertion of using her quirk for so long, and Kawasaki's hands were covered in several band-aids where she had pricked herself in her haste to put things together in time. Whether I liked it or not, there was only one appropriate answer here. Luckily, it was an answer where I could afford to tell the truth. "I really like it," I admitted. "I'm not an expert in this kind of stuff at all, but I can definitely tell it looks better. I'm not sure if I would make it a permanent change, I kind of liked having a mask," I said, waving my hand around the general area of my face, "but other than that it looks great."
Kawasaki's face had clouded as I expressed reluctance, but when I mentioned the reason it cleared up into a relieved smile. "Oh, I left that out on purpose," she said. "You're going to be eating and drinking, right? There's usually, like, hors d'oeuvres and canapes at these sorts of events, and you don't want to be constantly pulling a mask up and down."
"I dunno, Hikki," Yuigahama said thoughtfully, "I kind of like being able to see your face like this. I mean, it's usually super easy to tell what you're thinking just by how your eyes move anyway, but being able to see your mouth makes you seem more, hmmm… friendly, maybe?"
My mouth twisted in displeasure, in part because I was weirdly aware of how my mouth was moving all of a sudden. "Definitely sounds like I need the mask back, then," I said sarcastically. "Otherwise it'd be false advertising." Having said that, though, I turned and nodded gratefully at Kawasaki. "Going without definitely seems like the right move for tonight, though. I can tell you put a lot of thought into, well, everything," I said.
Her cheeks turned delicately pink, and she looked away, not meeting my eyes. "I have a lot of free time, okay?" she said. "Anyway, wait here for a minute? I have to grab Tsumura-senpai."
Before I could respond, she ran off into the hallway. I exchanged confused glances with Yuigahama, who gave me an equally confused shrug. When Kawasaki returned, it was with a pale-complexioned senior in tow, a boy with his hair in a violet bob cut and matching eyes. "This is Tsumura Ikuto-senpai," she said, "because our costume used metamaterials, I need a supervisor to sign off on it to make sure I'm not just, like, making my friends pants out of them or something."
"Ah, hello," Tsumura introduced himself with a friendly wave. At first he seemed a little spacey and distracted, but when he saw my costume his eyes narrowed, and he bit his thumb in concentration. "Hmm… interesting design elements, it's sort of a [mumble mumble] inspired by [more mumbling]..." His violet eyes snapped to mine. "Stand up, raise your arms, and spin slowly, please?"
"Uh, sure?" I said, and did as he asked. Slowly I turned in place as Tsumura examined me closely, occasional mumbles of phrases like 'I see' and 'wait, where are the seams?' occasionally finding their way to my ears.
When I completed the rotation, Tsumura's face looked impressed. "You designed this?" He said to Kawasaki. "It's really impressive work for a first-year."
Her face turned bright red. "I, uh, um, thanks!" She squeaked. I felt a surge of irritation. Who the heck was this guy, and what gave him the right to be so condescending? "Yuigahama here helped me get everything stitched together in time."
"Oh, I was wondering. Fabric quirk?" He asked, and Yuigahama nodded. "Right. Well, it's a really interesting design, but… I feel like there's a lot of negative space on the front," he said, "and the detail work on the sides of the abdomen is covered up by the jacket from anything but a straight-on approach." Again, he bit his thumb thoughtfully. "It could really use a logo in the center of the chest," he said, and looked at me expectantly.
Awkwardly, I shuffled in place. "I, uh, don't exactly have one," I said.
"You don't?" His eyebrows rose, and then a sudden realization struck him. "Oh, that's right, you're only a first-year. Well, then… The gray on the torso is enough of a visual interest element that you can get away without a logo there for now, I think. Maybe you could repeat the detailing you did on his legs on the arms of the jacket?"
Kawasaki glanced up at the clock, then over at Yuigahama, who smiled and nodded. Turning back to Tsumura, Kawasaki smiled. "Thanks for the suggestion, senpai. I should have time to finish that before Hikigaya needs to go."
Tsumura blinked, as if surprised at the fact that all of this was being put together on such short notice, but didn't say anything about it. Instead, he handed me the manila folder I just now noticed he had been holding in his other hand. "Okay, then. Here's the paperwork you need to fill out," he said to me, "and there's a form in there as well for your internship advisor as well."
I flinched halfway through accepting the folder, causing my quirk to reveal that Tsumura had puncture-proof skin on the tips of his fingers. I didn't bother copying his quirk, instead looking at him in confusion. "Uh… why?" I asked.
"They're the one bringing you to this thing, right?" He said expectantly. I froze. Did UA just need confirmation that I was going to an event and not cosplaying for fun? Or was this fancy metamaterial stuff so expensive that Cyberpunch would have to pay for it, if she signed the paper? I laughed nervously, trying to think of what to say, and apparently Tsumura-senpai took it as confirmation because he stepped back and waved. "Anyway, I have to get back to my own work, but it was nice meeting you!"
"Uh… you… too…" I said as he vanished out the door, then let out a heavy sigh. Kawasaki looked between me and the door in confusion, but I just shook my head. "Nevermind," I said, "it's not that important." I would just have to talk to the staff and explain what was going on later. Worst came to worst, I'm sure Cyberpunch wouldn't mind bending the truth a little on a form as long as I could confirm she didn't have to pay for anything. "So, uh, he said we should add detail to the arms, right?"
Kawasaki leaned in, examining the surface closely. "I'm not sure if Yuigahama will be able to use her 'smooshing' technique to attach regular fabric to dynaleather," she said thoughtfully, "so I'll have to unstitch the sleeves, attach the stripes via applique, and stitch them back on. Yuigahama, can you get started on taking the jacket apart? I'll go grab the fusible web and the heating iron."
"Okay! Hikki, give it here," Yuigahama said.
"I'm sure it's a little late to be saying this now," I said, "but did the jacket really need to be made out of something fancy like dynaleather? I mean, regular leather or some other fabric probably would have been easier and cheaper, right?" Partly, I was asking as a surreptitious way of trying to find out just how expensive this 'dynaleather' stuff was, but I was also kind of curious.
Unfortunately, Kawasaki didn't address my question with a straightforward 'no, dynaleather's actually fairly cheap'. Instead, she frowned. "Uh, Hikigaya… Do you remember the Tokyo Sky Egg incident, a few years back?"
"That was the one where Captain Celebrity saved a bunch of people, right?" I said.
She nodded solemnly. "That's only one example, but it's actually pretty common for villains to deliberately target social events where lots of heroes are going to be present. One of the rules for Hero formalwear is that it has to be combat-capable - that's also why a lot of heroes are allowed to get away with attending events in their regular costumes."
"Oh," I said numbly. I handed Yuigahama my jacket absent-mindedly. "I didn't know that. Uh, thanks, then, for thinking of that." Like I didn't have enough to worry about tonight already.
Kawasaki flashed me a quick smile. "That's what the support department is here for. Besides, this was my first time working with metamaterials, so it was fun for me too. And actually, this whole thing has been a really good experience, I don't usually have to deal with deadlines like this," she said.
I started to smile in relief, saying "Oh, that's-" but before I could get out the rest of my sentence, Kawasaki froze me with an icy glare.
"But next time? You better give me actual time to work, you got it?" She said sternly.
Wincing, I nodded frantically. "Oh yeah, no, absolutely," I agreed.
Satisfied, she turned away, her long blue ponytail swaying with the motion. "You owe me big-time, Hikigaya," she said as she headed for the materials room.
"Believe me, I know." I looked between her departing back and Yuigahama, who was busily attacking my jacket with a seam ripper. "Both of you."
"Nnnn," Yuigahama looked up at me and hummed with a smile. "It's fine, Hikki. I'm just glad I could help out. What else are friends for?"
If I'd ever had any before, maybe I would have known how to answer that. Instead, all I could do was return her smile.