Seryu and her band of friends had all gotten to know each other quite well on their journey to the Gilded City. The long road had given them plenty of time to talk amongst themselves, with Bean Bag Man and Doll getting along particularly well. The porcelain girl had even managed to win over Koro by sharing a cookie from her bag with him. Statue was a little more hesitant to join the conversation. Seryu figured he was just shy, so she tried her best to make small talk with him to break the ice. At long last, the Gilded City came into sight.
"Look, over there," pointed Statue, "It's the Gilded City! Oh how brightly the sun's rays reflect off of the city's metal walls!"
"Wait, how can you tell such things when you don't even have eyes?" asked Seryu, who was shielding her own retinas with her hands.
Statue paused for a moment, trying to think up an explanation, but just answered with a shrug.
"Who cares?" cried the blue man. "We've finally reached our goal!" With that, Bean Bag Man raced towards the city gates, leaving the rest of the group behind.
Doll called out after him, "Wait, your eyes haven't adjusted to the brightness! If you approach too quickly, you'll. . ." But it was too late.
"Ah! My eyes, it burns! Someone turn down the sun!"
Seryu decided she needed to take charge. "Listen everyone, our eyes will adjust eventually. Just walk forwards slowly, and avoid looking directly at the walls."
With great effort, and at a snail's pace, the group trudged towards the city. By the time they had reached the gates, their eyes had mostly become accustomed to the bright flare. Upon reaching the gates, Seryu noticed a rope hanging down, leading up to a bell. Putting two and two together she rang the bell. A loud ding-dong rang out, and the group waited for a reply. After a few seconds, a small hatch on the door opened up, and Seryu could see a human eye peeking through. Seryu assumed the man looking through the peephole must be the gatekeeper.
"Who rang that bell?" barked the gatekeeper.
"I did. My friends and I want to see the wizard."
"Didn't you see the sign?" asked the man, his voice becoming more agitated.
"The sign on the door. It's as clear as the nose on my face."
"We can't really see your nose either," muttered Doll.
Seryu looked around the gates, and sure enough, there was a sign that read, "BELL OUT OF ORDER. COME AGAIN LATER."
"I must have missed that because of the flare," said Seryu, "Either way, the bell is clearly fine. It rang loudly enough for you to hear us."
The gatekeeper snorted. "Rules are rules. No one is allowed in. Unless. . ."
"Unless?" asked Statue.
"Unless any of you could contribute to the city's 'Bell Repair Fund.'"
"What's that?" asked Seryu.
"You see, if someone were to donate money to the city, we could afford to fix the bell, and let you all in."
Bean Bag Man looked indignant. "What do you mean you can't afford to fix it. Your walls are literally made of gold!"
The gatekeeper shrugged on the other side of said walls. "Look, I said we lack the funds. Either donate some money through the coin slot on the door, or get lost." With that, the man closed the peephole.
Doll began digging through the pockets in her clothes, before pulling out two gold coins.
"Wait," said the blue man, "this is clearly a scam. Don't give all your money to that cheat."
"I know it's a scam, but what other choice do we have? The only way we'll see the wizard is to pay off this guy," WIth that, Doll slipped the coins through the slot.
Almost immediately, the gates were unlocked and flew open. "The bell is now fixed. Welcome to the Gilded City."
Seryu and her friends passed through the gates without a word, dumbstruck at how little the man tried to hide his con.
"Now, would you mind telling us where we can find the wizard?" asked Seryu.
"Need some directions, eh? That will cost. . ." Before the gatekeeper could finish, one look at Seryu's enraged eyes, along with a growl from Koro, told the man it would be unhealthy to push his luck. "The wizard's palace is located in the center of the city. Just go straight, you can't miss it."
"Thank you for your help," said Seryu, in a tone less than sincere.
As Seryu led her party through the streets of the Gilded City, it became evidently clear that the city's name was quite the misnomer. All the dwellings were in a state of disrepair, and the shops were rundown. What was most surprising were the people who walked the city streets. They were mostly dressed in rags, and refused to make eye contact with one another. The townspeople just seemed to mindless go about their private affairs, while trying to avoid contact with others as much as possible.
"Not quite the image I got when I heard, 'Gilded City,'" muttered Bean Bag Man.
"It appears the authorities put more effort towards keeping others out than helping those already here," whispered Statue.
Seryu didn't say a word, but couldn't help being reminded of the worst slums in the Capital she patrolled back when she was a member of the Imperial Guard.
Doll didn't make any noise either, save for the crunching of cookies.
True to the gatekeeper's word, the group easily spotted the wizard's palace. It was an impressive keep, towering so high into the clouds that one couldn't see the top. Like the city walls, the palace appeared to be made out of gold. It was a stark contrast from the dirty buildings that made up the rest of the city. Wasting no time, Seryu marched up to the keep's golden gates and used the knocker on the door. Just as with the city gates, a peephole opened up. Seryu's first thought was, Oh great. Another gatekeeper.
"What do you want?" barked the man.
"If you'd please, Sir. We'd like to see the wizard. All four of us."
"Orders are nobody can see the wizard. Not nobody, not nohow."
"But it's very important!" insisted Seryu.
"Not nobody, not no. . . wait, are those the purple glasses on your face?"
"Yes, they are."
"So you're the one who killed the Wicked Witch of the East?"
"Yes, that was me. I served that witch JUSTICE. . . even if by accident."
"Well, that changes things considerably. I'll announce you right away," said the gatekeeper, closing the peephole.
"At least he didn't ask for a bribe," said Doll.
After a few minutes of suspenseful waiting, the peephole opened up again.
"The wizard says, 'Go away!'" shouted the gatekeeper before slamming the peephole shut.
Everyone in the party felt defeated. Everyone except Seryu. Seryu wasn't discouraged, she was pissed. She thought about how her comrades back home might already have been killed by Night Raid, and here the wizard wouldn't even hear her request. This Jaeger had had enough.
"Koro, equip me with number five."
Koro then bit down on his master's right arm, leaving a giant drill in his place.
"Alright, Wizard, if you won't listen to me, listen to Enma's Spear of JUSTICE!" screamed Seryu as she tore down the doors of the palace, crushing the gatekeeper along with them. "Come on guys, we're getting our wishes granted, one way or another."
Seryu charged down the halls of the palace with her companions close behind. She was formulating what she would say to the wizard when they met, thinking that if the wizard would have to help her if she was assertive enough. As she burst into the throne room, all her confidence vanished. Sitting on a colossal throne was a giant suit of armor. The armor covered every inch of the wearer's body. A long purple cape hung from the titan's shoulders. The giant was easily taller than most of the buildings the city's commoners called home. Seryu easily understood why the palace needed to be so large to house this being. She knew that there would be no intimidating this colossus of a man.
"I am Ur, the Great and Powerful. Who are you?" boomed the giant. The voice echoed all throughout the throneroom, giving off the impression that the sound was coming from every direction.
Seryu decided humility would be the best tactic. Stepping forward, she said, "I am Seryu, an agent of justice. We've come to ask-"
"SILENCE!" roared the wizard, making Seryu step back to her friends. "The Great Ur knows why you have come. Step forward, Doll."
The porcelain girl nervously obeyed before receiving a tongue lashing from Ur. "You dare come to me to ask for a sister? You stiff, pale, small, inexpressive waste of ceramic!"
Doll tried to speak up for herself, stuttering, "Yes, your honor. You see, I never had a family-"
"SILENCE!" Ur cried. Doll immediately ran to the arms of Bean Bag Man. "And you, Bean Bag Man, have the effrontery to ask for a frame. You ugly, malleable, uncomfortable, sorry excuse for furniture!"
Bean Bag Man fell to his knees, "Yes, your honor- I mean your excellency- I mean your wizardry."
"ENOUGH! And you, Statue."
Before the wizard could insult him as well, the stone man's nerves got to him, and he fainted with a loud crash.
As the others tried to help Statue up, Seryu's fear was replaced by anger at how her friends were being treated.
"You should be ashamed of yourself! Frightening him like that when he came to you for help!"
"SILENCE, WHIPPERSNAPPER! The Magnificent Ur has every intention of granting your requests."
At this, Statue sat up. "He will?"
"But first, you must complete for me, one small task. Bring me the broomstick, 'Pumpkin,' of the Wicked Witch of the West."
"But we'd have to kill her to get it," said Statue.
"But what if she kills us first?" asked a terrified Bean Bag Man.
"I SAID GO!"
As the wizard's command echoed throughout the palace, Seryu, Koro, Bean Bag Man, Doll, and Statue all fled the keep. They didn't stop running until they were well outside the walls of the Gilded City.
The group made camp outside the Gilded City, taking the time to catch their breath and decide what to do. After a couple minutes of resting, Seryu spoke first.
"I don't have a choice. My comrades back home need me. If killing this witch is the only way the wizard will send me back, I'll do it. Koro and I have combat experience, so we'll be fine. I wouldn't blame any of you if you wanted to sit this out."
Seryu's three companions all looked at each other and then back at her. Bean Bag Man spoke first. "I'm coming with you. A man always sticks by his friends, so I'll support you."
Doll spoke next. "I may not have a sister, but friends like you are as close to family as people come. I'll have your back."
Last was Statue. "I can't just ask you to risk your life to make all our dreams come true. What kind of person would do that? I'm coming to help you, witch or no witch."
Seryu was stunned. She hadn't known these three for that long (though they all felt strangely familiar), yet they were all willing to risk their lives to help her kill this witch. Bringing all these people to see the wizard, giving them hope for the first time that their dreams will be realized, clearly meant the world to them. And now they were going to do anything to help Seryu grant her wish.
Smiling at her friends, Seryu happily declared, "Alright then. We're off to kill the witch."