She wasn’t sure what was more unseemly: the amount of dirt, blood, and grime she had accumulated, or that an Ascended was close to losing her damned mind about it. Their supply shipments had been blocked for nearly two weeks and while she, like other Ascended, didn’t need to eat or worry about sickness from filth, it was demoralizing. Growing up in Gloamwood, Mizuki was taught the Mathosian ways of life. Not to say any other race was filthy, but when appearances were everything, baths were had as if they were life and death.

The High Elf had been out on a scouting mission and she hoped by the time she made it back to camp, the line of Storm Legion had been broken and she could get at least some of this off. Her companions had been on resource hunts themselves and with luck, she would meet them around their point a few days after they were done.

Coming into camp, the fire was burning with the smell of cooked local wildlife. They didn’t need to eat, but the familiarity of food was a comfort for weary soldiers. HaKiale was asleep, his foot sticking unceremoniously out of his tent while Lorska sat against a tree, his battlecat’s head resting on his knee as the Bahmi worked fiber into yarn. Mizuki sat across the fire from her companion, he being the last person she wanted to talk to at the moment and dug into the roast.

“You’re welcome.”

The mage stopped mid bite, hoping she hadn’t heard him start up, not yet. “If you hadn’t meant this for me, it would have been put away. ” she finished the bite. She got no answer and the Beastmaster did nothing but set a new bunch of wool on his drop spindle. He kept his badgering at a minimum when meals came about, for which she was grateful, but it seemed even then he couldn’t resist a jab. It was in this scrutiny that Mizuki noticed an uplifting detail. Lorska’s camp tunic was clean! Not just washed in the river to get most of the blood out, but clean!

“OH! The supply rations came through?” The firelight twinkled in her widened eyes.

“No...They still are trying to break through, if we weren’t on supply duty we’d probably be up there too.” Lorska turned his yellow gaze from the spindle to Mizuki just in time to see her face falter. “Why would you think that?”

“Your tunic is clean, I thought we got our soap rations....”

“Well, we washed them the other day...”

“How in the hells did you get it that clean without any cleaner?” the High Elf’s eyes sharpened at the gall of Lorska. She could see the Bahmi was thinking, a look of not quite glee easing onto his face. He reached into his pack and dug around a moment before taking out a square cake of ash soap.

“HaKiale and I have soap. Why in the world do you think I lug around that old pot and collect ashes?”

Mizuki had been well enough off in her life that she had never bothered with the concept of making her own soap. If her family needed it, they went to the shop, the shops had people who made it. Lorska on the other hand had grown up with a family that made most of what they needed. Materials were cheaper than labour, and soap, clothes, and other household goods were made at home. Paying someone for something he could make with three to four ingredients and some down time was almost foreign to the Bahmi.

“And were you ever going to share that fact with me!?” Mizuki almost lost her temper and bit back the volume of her voice to keep from waking HaKiale. “Just to see me suffer?”

Lorska was about to argue that she was hardly suffering with some dirt and blood on her clothes when he noticed the High Elf was not only upset, but near tears. They bore each other’s company due to their friendship to HaKiale, and didn’t spare most of their burning remarks for each other but for now Lorska started to feel bad. It was more than a bit of grime on her, and he knew that the Kelari and he had also taken a bit longer getting themselves cleaned up after their foray.

There’s no reason to be cruel to her, Lorska. Sama and Tavalta raised you better than that.

The Beastmaster looked down as Pancakes gave him a look of disappointment, ears flat back and nose crinkled. Bringing his parents into it was a low move for the cat and Lorska returned the sour expression. But his companion was right. The Ganbars had not been rich, but they didn’t give a second thought to helping others. He would have never become friends with HaKiale if they weren’t. It was just ash, fat, and flowers anyway.....

He dug once more into his bag and found another cake of soap, taking care to toss the two over the fire and at Mizuki’s feet. She almost seemed surprised at the offering.

“We have downtime tomorrow. You’ll learn to make it your damn self.”

The mage got up, bringing the cakes to herself. It was a moment of humility for both of them and as much as she wanted to tear him apart for being backhandedly generous, she let it lie.

“Thank you.”

As Mizuki rushed to the nearby river, HaKiale’s purple eyes gleamed from the tent. “That was nice of you, though I thought you had told her about the soap before.” the disappointment was evident.

“Oh, don’t you start.”

“I just want you two to get along....”

“Well, I gave her TWO bars, that’s a start, right?”

HaKiale let out a huff of a laugh, knowing well it would be longer for either of his friends to admit to cracking, but yes. It was a start.