The Discord audience erupted in thunderous applause, with whistles and even a few “You’re Number 1 Spike!” signs being waved around. There was a flash of light and Spike found himself stripped down to a pair of blue swimming trunks covered with hundreds of tiny Rarity heads, each one winking or making kissy faces. He glared at Host Discord and instinctively reached for his sword before remembering that it was no longer at his side. One of these days, Discord, one of these days…
The draconequus held up Star Swirl’s skull and peered into its eye sockets. “Hello again, old friend. Did you lose weight? Get a beard trim?”
“You know damn well what happened to me, you unscrupulous rogue!” The skull barked. “Just be thankful that I no longer have any hooves to kick your scrawny-...”
A steel box covered in chains materialized around the skull, leaving it hollering muffled curses at the bemused chaos-bringer. “Ooh! What a mouth on that one!” He then tossed the box behind his shoulder, allowing it to sail through the air and pass through a floating basketball net. “Anywho, back to the show! Spike the dragon, are you ready for…?”
Ignoring the screaming crowd, Spike stared Host Discord in the eyes and nodded, loudly cracking his knuckles. “Ready when you are, Discord.”
“Great! Then here...we...go!”
Before he could blink, Spike was poofed into the glass tank while the electronic scoreboard’s timer flashed three zeroes. A viscous pink fluid became to bubble up at his feet, quickly devouring his toes and making its way up to his ankles. He took control of his breathing, trying to remain as calm as possible while Host Discord tickled underneath Female Discord’s chin, earning him a giggle from the curvy doppelganger. “Start the countdown and let’s get...to...sliming!”
The dragon’s waist disappeared, his eyes snapping shut as he took steady breaths, his mind focusing on staying serene and not losing his cool. As Shining Armor once told him, “Fear and panic are the enemies of the mind. Let them in and you invite them to dinner.” Spike could feel his scaly skin tickle as the slime swallowed up his midsection, ascending up to his chest and beneath his armpits. I bet Shining Armor never had to train for this!
Host Discord’s gaze never left Spike’s, his mouth twisted into a sadistic rictus, his mismatched form literally shaking with excitement. Spike glared at him, his focus now set on how much he despised the draconequus, the claws on his right hand reflexively curling up to grasp at an invisible sword. Oh, how he wished to shove a blade in between Discord’s eyes! The slime engulfed Spike’s head, forcing him to swallow in as much air as he possibly could and held it. Celestia give me strength!
“Ladiiiiiies and gentlemeeeeen! It...is...SLIME TIME!”
And with that, the electronic clock mercifully began its countdown, every member of the cloned audience chanting out the red neon numbers with way too much vigor for such a barbaric game. Then again, they were conjurations of the Lord of Chaos, so it should've have come as such a shock.
Alright, so far so good, Spike. Just got to hang in there!
He was careful to ensure that little breaths flowed through his nostrils, his chest expanding and contracting in little bursts. It was a trick Rainbow Dash taught him one summer while swimming after a little breath-holding test. Even the slime wasn’t that bad; it just took some getting used to. All in all, Spike was feeling a little at ease.
Female Discord stared bored down at her nails while Host Discord was trying to keep a vicious smile on his face, the edges flickering ever so slightly. Spike couldn’t help but throw him a cocky little grin. It did wonders for the drake’s moral to see his tormentor slowly losing his cool, witnessing the draconequus not getting any satisfaction in his sick game. In fact, it warmed Spike’s chest to see Discord so downtrodden. Wait a minute...
Something tickled in the back of Spike’s throat. His eyes bulged, his lungs begging-no, screaming for air. Outside the tank, the audience continued their chanting, their voices like a symphony of doom as they counted down with the clock. Host Discord's smile returned with a vengeance at the realization of Spike's predicament. Gleeful red and yellow eyes watched the dragon struggling to hold his breath and loving every moment.
His legs began frantically kicking at the gelatinous slime, every motion was like paddling through quicksand.
By then, the panic had fully set in and the only thing on Spike’s mind was escaping the confines of his glass prison. Spike swiped at the glass, his claws raking against its surface without so much as a single scratch.
Think, Spike, think! What would Rainbow Dash do?! It became harder and harder for him to concentrate as the desire to open his mouth became more tempting by the minute.
I’m not going to drown, I’m not going to drown!
Can’t they stop that damn chanting?!
Host Discord’s face nearly split from his devious grin, the edges of his lips curling in on themselves like burning paper. Conjuring up an armchair, he settled down with a bucket of popcorn, his eyes never leaving Spike's. Seeing the dragon's evident distress, Host Discord started taking long, deep breaths, every gulp of air serving as a deliberate slap in the face for his poor "contestant." This earned the mischief-maker a few laughs from the duplicated audience.
The auditorium was spinning, Spike’s eyes flickered as he struggled to remain awake, his cheeks puffed out in an attempt to conserve the last of his oxygen. The sounds emanating from outside of the tank no longer registered to Spike; it was if the world didn’t exist anymore. There was just him and the slime. He clenched his fists, the claws digging hard enough into his scaly hands to induce bleeding. He clamped his jaws to keep a tight seal on his last reserves of air.
Spike’s mind wandered, drifting back to a simpler time, before madcap spirits of disharmony and love-devouring changelings. He thought of Rarity, about how much he missed her and longed to be in her embrace. It was painfully obvious that he had feelings towards the fashionista and Applejack and Rainbow Dash usually teased him about it but he didn’t care. He recalled helping Rarity out at her boutique, either setting up her window displays or carrying boxes too heavy for her delicate magic to move. Sometimes, he even let her use him like a pincushion or to model outfits for her. Anything for his Rarity.
Most stallions looked at the Element of Generosity and only saw a pretty mare to buck. They didn’t appreciate her creativity or her laugh, which sounded like a silver bell. And her eyes...oh, how he longed to stare once more into her sapphire-blue eyes. He’d give anything to see her beautiful face one more time. Well, I may get that chance real soon.
His ear twitched, snapping him wide awake. He saw a silver-white glow pulsating from the steel box on the stage floor. What is Star Swirl…-? His answer came in the form of an odd tingling sensation in his chest that spread throughout his lungs, filling them once more with air. Why you sneaky bastard!
His strength renewed, Spike met Host Discord’s wide-eyed gaze and a smile oozing with mockery adorned Spike’s face. You’re in trouble now, Dipcord!
The chanting, which at one time had been a source of frustrating ominousness, now served as an almost melodic score heralding in Spike’s victory.
The two locked eyes and Host Discord hung his head in defeat.
The tank's door was yanked open by invisible hands, spilling gallons of slime onto the stage along with a moist and very sticky dragon. Tumbling across the floor, Spike came to rest on his side, hacking and clearing his irritated lungs. Now freed of his claustrophobic surroundings, he was quick to suck in as much precious air as mortally possible. Never before had the simple act of drawing in breaths felt so heavenly. He slowly sat up and then made an effort to rise to his feet, his head still dizzy from his recent ordeal in the tank.
“Well Spike the dragon, it looks as though you’ve won Slime Time!” Host Discord cheered, his bubbly demeanor a stark contrast to the murderous gaze in his eyes. He snapped his fingers and Spike found himself fully clothed with all of his possessions returned. He felt the Staff of Harmony beneath its cloth covering and took a quick peek just to ensure that it was there. Everything was as it should be. Except for...
It was true, Spike’s normally purple and green skin was now a garish hot pink color.
The draconequus gave Spike a toothy, devilish smile. “Didn’t I mention that the slime acts as a temporary skin dye?”
In a flash, Spike drew his sword and severed Host Discord's head, sending it flying through the air and in the hands of an overly zealous Discord audience member, who hollered and raised it into the air like a prized baseball. With little sparkly flashes, the Discords slowly popped out of existence, leaving only a lone Discord seated in the back row of the seats. Calmly, he stood up and began to slow-clap, his fuzzy purple and white-furred cape dragging behind him, a golden crown resting upon his head.
“Marvelous! Now that’s what I call ‘cutting-edge entertainment’!”
Spike was stunned. "But you...he...-"
"Come now, Spike, did you really think that I'd leave myself so open for an attack? I know that's a magic sword in your grasp and while it can hurt me, it’s not enough to kill me. Still, I appreciate the thought you’ve put into this."
The tip of the sword whipped upward to point at Discord’s face. "So...I'm guessing you're not in a talking mood?"
“You’re going to suffer for everything you’ve done,” Spike growled.
“Maybe...but not yet.”
The next thing he knew, Spike was right back where he was, standing on the dirt pathway with the Cliffs of insanity behind him.
“Oh, and don’t worry, that dye will come off in a couple of days,” Discord’s disembodied voice promised mirthfully. “Toodle-oo for now, Spikey!” With a cackle, he was gone, leaving Spike alone once more.
"Thank Celestia we're out of that mess," Star Swirl murmured from Spike's hip.
Spike peered towards the horizon. "Yeah...for now."