The buildings are all mountains here, mountains made of glass and stone and sharp, knife-cut edges. In the darkness before dawn, she flies, high and higher, further in, further out, in this world with no beginning and no end.
Where she goes, the snow follows, a lazy scattering of white from the overcast sky. She draws circles behind her, spiraling inwards, until it seems this place has always slept, buried under the trail of her passing.
A strange world, this.
She finds him at last, diving from the sky, down into a street so narrow that when she stretches her wings full, they brush the sides of the buildings. Banking at the last moment, she alights on a lamp post, the only lit lamp on the night shadowed street. She folds her wings.
A man lies sprawled on his back in the middle of the road. Snow dusts the ragged black of his clothing; for all appearances, he could be dead.
He is not, of course, or this world would not exist.
She waits for a moment, studying her find, head tilted on side, then makes a noise of impatience. Her shriek is a harsh, keening echo through the empty city.
"Wake," she commands.
Finally, he begins to stir. He moves slowly, heavily; sitting up, he draws a hand over his face, studies himself. Climbing to his feet, he turns a slow circle to look at the street around him.
Finally, he looks up at the falcon taller than a man's height, with its feathers of white so bright, they burn with their own light.
"You are not from here," he says.
She clicks her tongue, contemptuous. "Of course not." What place would an ugly, misshapen world like this have for her?
He doesn't speak, only stands, still and waiting. He is only half awake yet, she decides, just like the noisy mortal boy Rukia has lost her powers to, and in the losing, left Sodeno Shirayuki trapped here, with this. The air is too warm, the terrain cluttered and strange; she thinks of how long she could be forced to stay in this stupid, stupid place and bristles.
"You are trapped here," he observes.
She thinks of how easy it should be to snap his bones with her beak, to take him in her claws and drop him from the highest building and hope he dashes and this world shatters with him.
"Yes," she hisses, and lifts her wings.
Down the street, the wind begins to rise, rippling through her feathers, whipping flurries of snow before it. They rise to spin around him, until he disappears in a hurricane of whirling snow, the eye of a solitary storm.
He doesn't move. Eventually, the wind begins to fall again, and she lowers her wings by a fraction. He reaches out a hand, catches a flake of snow in his palm, looks up at her.
"Hm," he says.
She snaps her beak at him. "You would do well to show more respect to your elders," she says, and shakes her feathers, spreads her wings to their full span.
"Indeed," he concedes, even as she begins to rise again, wings beating the air. "We bid you welcome." His voice resounds through the narrow space around her; she ignores it, spiraling back up into the sky, where she can almost ignore this world, ignore this place.
Where she goes, the snow follows. And up in the clouds, the first light of dawn begins to break.