The next morning, Sea Swirl heard a knock on her front door. She slipped through the lower half to see a sleek Xenovulpes she didn't recognise standing outside. Her smooth fur was as white as clouds - with light blue highlights - and her tail was as fluffy as them, too. On her sides were a pair of dainty, feathery wings that looked far too small for her to be able to fly - but then again, so did pegasi’s wings.
“Hello,” Sea Swirl said politely. “What’s your name?”
“Really?” the white one asked with an accusative tone. “How could you NOT recognise me?” Something instantly clicked. She’d recognise her sister’s attitude anywhere.
“Rainy Rays!” Sea Swirl exclaimed in joy.
Sea Swirl was desperate to stretch her legs, so the two of them decided to go to the park. As they sat on a white bench, they heard the wonderful sound of Lyra playing her lyre and singing her heart out to a leafy Xenovulpes, presumably Bonbon. A blue and white serpent swam amongst the lilies in the stream. A small, light blue X. lepidocyon jumped out of the fountain, splashing water onto a cyan and black lion, who leapt backwards in shock. Overall, it was peaceful. Sea Swirl took a deep breath and relaxed.
Back when they were ponies, Rainy Rays had looked almost identical to Sea Swirl, the only difference being that she was a pegasus. They were both born in Canterlot, but Rays had moved to Cloudsdale to work in the Weather Factory.
“What’s Cloudsdale like?” asked Sea Swirl.
“Boring,” sighed Rainy Rays, slouching.
“Everypony looks the same. They all blend into the clouds,” Rays sighed. She pointed at the cyan and black lion. “Why can’t I be one of those?”
“You should be grateful that you’re still alive,” Sea Swirl said. Rainy Rays frowned and opened her mouth to argue, but Sea Swirl interrupted her. “Sassaflash has been worried about Cloudsdale.”
“She could’ve come to visit me at any time, y’know,” said Rainy Rays.
“Huh? But she’s a pegasus, right?”
“It doesn’t work like that. These transformations seem to be semi-random. See that green cat over there?” Sea Swirl pointed at Lyra.
Rainy Rays mimed throwing up. “Eww. It looks like puke.”
Sea Swirl rolled her eyes. “She used to be a unicorn, too. Sassaflash is a...”
She was interrupted by the sight of a yellow blur running into the park, then slamming head-first into the side of the fountain.
“...That,” Sea Swirl finished.
“Nothing’s changed there,” Rays deadpanned.
“Sea Swirl!” exclaimed Sassaflash. “There you are!” She ran towards the bench. “I’ve been looking for you all morn- who’s that?”
“Rainy Rays,” Rays sighed.
"Oh! So that means... Cloudsdale really is alright!” Sassaflash cheered. “What's it like?”
“We’re already working on getting the weather factory running again,” said Rays. “Some foals fell through the clouds, but we rescued most of them. Some are still missing, though. Although, that reminds me, there was this griffon cub who turned into a pink kitten...”
"Oh..." Sassaflash looked down. Sea Swirl told Rainy Rays all about what they'd seen on that first day.
"That's a shame,” said Rainy Rays bluntly.
"Shame?" growled Sassaflash, crouching as if she were about to attack. “HOW COULD YOU BE SO-” Sea Swirl interrupted her with a blast of water to the face.
“Calm down,” said Sea Swirl. “We don't want you destroying the park.”
“Okay...” sighed Sassaflash.
“How'd you do that?” asked Rainy Rays.
“We accidentally discovered that we had powers,” said Sea Swirl. “Don't you?”
“Nothing a normal pegasus couldn't do,” said Rays. “The most damage anypony caused in Cloudsdale was flapping their wings to hard and blowing furniture across rooms. What's happened in Ponyville, then?”
“Well...” Sassaflash said sheepishly. She explained what had happened at the bowling alley. “That's nothing compared to Appleloosa, though...” she trailed off quietly.
“I wish I could shoot lightning,” said Rainy Rays.
“And I wish I could still fly,” added Sassaflash. “Do you think you could switch our bodies?” she asked Sea Swirl enthusiastically.
“NO!” shouted Sea Swirl firmly. “I can't use magic anymore, and even if I could, body-swapping spells are extremely dangerous and difficult to perform.”
“But didn't you go to Celestia's School for Gifted Unicorns?” asked Sassaflash.
“I dropped out,” said Sea Swirl.
“What? Why?” Sassaflash seemed betrayed.
“I wanted to take up surfing instead,” replied Sea Swirl. “Then, I realised that aquatic biology was my true calling in life.”
“Speaking of which, what do you think Canterlot’s like?” asked Sassaflash.
“Haven’t been there yet,” said Rainy Rays.
“Hopefully, the princesses are trying to fix all of this as we speak,” Sea Swirl tried to reassure them, glancing at the mountain.
“Now that I think about it, I should give our parents a visit later,” said Rainy Rays. “Want to come?”
“No thanks,” said Sea Swirl. “The trains are barely running anymore.”
“How’d Sassaflash get to Appleloosa, then?” asked Rainy Rays.
“I ran,” said Sassaflash.
“Really?” Rainy Rays looked intrigued. “If you’re that fast, why don’t you race me? Running or flying: we’ll see who’s faster.”
“Challenge accepted!” exclaimed Sassaflash.
Sassaflash, Sea Swirl, and Rainy Rays arrived in the White Tail Woods, at the beginning of the racetrack used for the Running of the Leaves. The air was still, and the sky was clear - the perfect conditions for a race! Sassaflash crouched at the starting line, while Rays flexed her wings.
“In order to make this a fair game, Rainy Rays must follow the course of the racetrack at all times,” said Sea Swirl formally. “Understood?”
“Yeah,” said Rainy Rays.
“ON YOUR MARKS... GET SET... GO!” shouted Sea Swirl.
Sassaflash ran as fast as she could, her eyes dead set on the horizon; she wasn’t going to let herself get distracted by jealousy. She’d ran the Running of the Leaves so many times throughout her life that she could follow the track with her eyes shut. She skillfully leapt over the rock that tripped up so many first-timers. Now that she had paws, she appreciated just how soft the dirt was beneath them; it was much nicer than Appleloosa’s coarse sand.
Soon, the goal was in sight, and she hadn’t even broken a sweat. Nothing could take away her focus now... But then ahead of her, Rainy Rays dived down towards the finishing line to gain speed like a peregrine falcon.
Sassaflash’s body crackled with electricity as she forced herself to run even faster. Soon, her body was coated in electricity, and she caught up with Rainy Rays at the last few metres...
“OUCH!” Rainy Rays yelped as the two of them collided, sending them both tumbling across the finishing line. “What was that for?”
“I'm so sorry!” gasped Sassaflash, startled at what she'd done. “It was an accident - I meant to catch up to you but - I didn't mean to hurt you!”
“What have I told you about not causing trouble?” somepony said with the tone of a stern mother. Sassaflash looked up to see...
“Sea Swirl!” she exclaimed. “How did you get here?”
“I let the stream carry me all the way here,” Sea Swirl said, looking at the stream in question.
“But that’s cheating!” yelled Sassaflash.
“I wasn’t a participant,” said Sea Swirl, sounding oddly smug.
“If anything, you’re the cheater,” growled Rainy Rays, pointing at Sassaflash. “I would’ve won if it weren’t for you!”
“Calm down, calm down,” said Sea Swirl. “Since she was so close to winning anyway, I declare that the winner is... RAINY RAYS!”
“See?” Rainy Rays snapped at Sassaflash, before turning to Sea Swirl. “So what do I win?”
“Nothing!” exclaimed Sea Swirl happily.