In my second meeting with Franseca and three other members of her cosplay family, she did not want to discuss her relationship with Atom. Whatever was happening was partially based on a fantasy construct that was too hard to explain at that moment. In the meantime, I was taken on a fieldtrip to the tailor Miss Ma, whom was also considered to be a member of the family. Miss Ma makes costumes for the costume players who live around Communication University of Beijing, including those of the NKNL family. We arrive at the outskirts of this university and pass by a sprawl of small restaurants alongside a large dirt road. We are then hoarded into a dark alley by Woody. The smell upon entering Miss Ma’s tiny shop is fantastic and I wonder what kind of special herbs she has been cooking.

There is a huge tree growing through her tiny shop where she also houses her motorbike and various sewing machines for constructing immensely complex outfits. We start a conversation and I immediately notice that she likes to talk. She tells us that she is happy with her line of work but just wants or needs to get more business—as she thinks that the cosplay fad has already diminished a little. We are all glued to where her monologue is going during our short visit, at the end of which she pulls out her magical scroll—hundreds of drawings and photos of people’s favorite animation characters which she has bound together with a purple string. Costumers have brought her all these drawings and sketches, knowing that Miss Ma will turn them into a great outfit. I mention our common friend Atom who enjoys portraying male characters. She shows us Atom’s new golden-brown kimono that is waiting to be picked up:

Zaphy: I am friend of Gao Yuan (Atom). We meet in Hong Kong and she encouraged me to visit you here.

Miss Ma: Yes, I have made a lot of costumes for her. Actually, there are several people like Gao and Woody who frequent my shop here. I have been doing this for a very long time. Before Atom, there was a girl called Ren Jing, also from Communication University. Ren asked me to make many costumes. I think it has been ten years since I started doing this. Every year, new students will come to me ordering new costumes.

Zaphy: How do these students find you?

Miss Ma: Through recommendation from friends. They often have this competition thing going on. When my one of my customers wins a competition, people will ask them about their tailor. Apart from Communication University, I have customers from other universities too. These people from other universities have gotten my address from the competitions where my customers have won. I haven’t done anything to promote myself.

Zaphy: So it is word of mouth? Does it make a good income or is it just a sideline business for you?

Miss Ma: It doesn’t bring a lot of money. I have not employed anyone, so I have to do it all by myself. Therefore I only take a certain amount of orders which won’t wear me out. So it’s not my major income. I take all kinds of orders from schools, stages, etc. I don’t expect to make a lot of money. I just make sure I can make some. I don’t need much money. I am already too old. Though sometimes I get big orders when the university is having a special event and they order ten or 20 costumes. Then I have to ride out there and buy fabrics for all those costumes—it is a lot of work.

Zaphy: Miss Ma, how much do you charge for each cosplay costume?

Miss Ma: It depends. 150 to 200 RMB. Sometimes I charge more with complicated costumes which have more pieces, layers, and garments. I will charge an extra 20 to 30 RMB. With simpler ones, I will deduct 20 to 30 RMB. The price is flexible. And I am very familiar with these kids; hence I won’t raise the price. They don’t really bargain with me, and I don’t ask for a lot. So that’s it. Two or three years ago, there was more business. Scores of people came and ordered. Now many of them buy online.

Zaphy: And what kind of drawings are you using to make the costumes?

Miss Ma: They give me cartoon-like pictures and then I try to interpret these and make the costume, but of course I will make slight variations to the colors and fabrics.