She’d given him a name. Perhaps it could be argued she’d also given him his freedom, but Aegis saw no use for the thing, so he didn’t consider it a boon of knowing her.
He didn’t know how to use the name, either. It carried a strange flavor in the back of his throat. So he just didn’t introduce himself. There was little enough need of names in Vegasia, so it’d been a simple thing to leave the city without anyone learning his. It felt as stuck to him as the red sand that stuck to the streaking sweat on his face.
Standing at the crest of a canyon, the wind pulling at his jacket, Aegis blinked dust from his eyes and considered.
The thin, young voice from behind him was the one his imagination had assigned his brother. He knew that if he turned he would see the apparition, real as if he could hurl a handful of dust and strike it.
“My name is Aegis now.”
“Because—“ He wiped the back of his hand across his mouth. “Because that’s what she told me.”
“She doesn’t own you. She didn’t even tell you her name.”
Finally he turned, eyes tired from the constant sun falling on the boy. The back of his mind whispered that the boy had died. The reality before him contravened this. He lifted his shoulders in an abject shrug.
“Nobody does, now. Nobody owns either of us.”
“So where are you going?”
He wanted to shrug again. He didn’t want to make the decision. Didn’t want to speak it aloud.
For a long moment, he didn’t. They watched each other. He knew that if he wandered the desert much longer, his sanity would tilt forever. He’d never recover from the delusion of his brother, following him. Free.
He had to get out of the desert.
By the time he’d loosed the canteen from its belt and raised it to his lips, the apparition had disappeared.
Aegis wished he could claim to be traveling across the desert to avenge his brother’s death. But the truth wasn’t that simple.