Tapper was entertaining Barber and Sweepy with a few rounds of Handy's "pinball game" in his tavern. All three of them took their turns to see who would go the farthest in a game that they have seen others play with much better skill.
"Well, there smurfs another lost game, mates," Sweepy said after he had finished his latest game while not scoring past the thousands range.
"Don't feel so bad, Sweepy," Barber said. "I can hardly smurf it past a thousand without losing my last ball. Maybe this game isn't our game after all."
"It's very unfortunate that this is the only game Handy has smurfed for the tavern that is more fun to watch than it is to play, gentlesmurfs," Tapper said.
"Maybe Handy can smurf up a new kind of game that smurfs use of those old crystals Miner had smurfed up that were part of the window-vision up until Gargamel stole the camera crystal," Barber suggested.
"You mean like window-vision games, mate?" Sweepy said. "I don't know about that one. Something like that can end up being so popular that Smurfs would be smurfing at home playing window-vision games all day instead of doing important village tasks or smurfing together in fun group activities."
"I can smurf what you mean there, Sweepy," Tapper said. "Besides, I'm not sure that I could smurf the point of these 'window-vision games' if we have the Imaginarium available for possibly playing games in more realistic environments that Smurfs can interact in."
"You smurfed me there, Tapper," Barber said. "I'm just thinking of what we can smurf in the tavern when Papa Smurf wouldn't want us to be smurfing all our time in the Imaginarium, that's all."
"Smurfs up, mate, I think you've got a customer," Sweepy told Tapper the instant he heard somebody come in through the door.
Tapper looked toward the door, and was surprised to see that it was Polaris, though it was more surprising to see him in only his underwear. He had a feeling Polaris had neglected his personal appearance from wherever he had come from.
"Great Smurfiny Crickets, Polaris," Tapper exclaimed. "You shouldn't be smurfing yourself out in the rain like that, where you could smurf pneumonia or something. Let me smurf you a towel and some hot goldenrod tea with mint before you start sneezing or coughing!"
"That isn't necessary, Tapper," Polaris refused, still looking toward the floor. "This one only needs the quiet solace of your tavern at this hour to calm this one's troubling emotions."
"Smurfs like you need some Smurf to talk to as well," Tapper surmised as he looked at Polaris' facial expression. He guided Polaris to a chair next to a window table and Tapper sat on the other side.
"I think it's time that we smurf our friends some privacy here, mate," Sweepy told Barber, who agreed with the sentiment. They both decided to leave and come back later when the tavern was open for business.
"It's this 'girlfriend' of yours that some Smurfs have been smurfing about, isn't it?" Tapper asked as soon as he and Polaris were alone together in the tavern.
"That is correct, Tapper," Polaris answered. "Empath found this one in the Imaginarium having a...private gathering with this newfound female companion who calls herself Elatia. This one was trying to tell Empath that she was a real being who was somehow trapped in the Imaginarium crystals, and all Empath could do was make Elatia disappear as if she was nothing more than an Imaginarium creation and make bold comments about this one confusing a fantasy with reality."
"Hmmm, smurfs like Empath is jealous over the fact that this Elatia is smurfing you away from him," Tapper guessed, looking intently at Polaris. "All I can smurf you is that it's a very common feeling every Smurf has when one Smurf spends more time with another Smurf than with the Smurf he has besmurfed. Of course, Empath never smurfed the benefit of having an Imaginarium to help teach him how to smurf with female Smurfs, so you have an advantage that Empath doesn't have."
"This one will only consider that revelation a small comfort," Polaris fumed bitterly. "Just as this one finds it very uncomfortable to be constantly displaying this one's exposed physical being in the presence of other Smurfs. Elatia was trying to make this one feel less inhibited about that particular behavior that the Smurfs take for granted when Empath had interrupted this one's interaction with Elatia."
Tapper sighed, uncertain of what else he could tell Polaris. "Well, allow me to smurf back to the Imaginarium and retrieve your clothing, since you really shouldn't be smurfing around wearing next to nothing on a day like this," he offered. "You can smurf here and collect your thoughts together, and you can help yoursmurf to the goldenrod tea to make yoursmurf feel better. I trust that you won't let any other Smurf in while I'm gone for a wee bit, which is all I'm asking of you if you don't mind."
Polaris nodded as he watched Tapper leave the tavern, then he simply slumped in his chair, burying his head in his hands. He felt embarrassed, betrayed, and consumed with guilt and shame because he had allowed himself to be physically involved with a female being that wasn't a Psyche — even though she seemed to be nothing more than an Imaginarium creation to Empath.
"Polaris, don't feel so ashamed of what happened," a familiar voice spoke to him. "What Empath did wasn't nice, but he truly had no idea what I was really — a disembodied spirit that was trapped in an Imaginarium crystal for centuries and released when they had dug out this crystal to put inside their fantasy room."
Polaris knew who it was. "Elatia?" he asked, looking around the room but not finding her presence around, though he could somehow sense her. "Where are you? How did you get outside the Imaginarium?"
"I am inside you right now," Elatia's voice answered, "but I can't remain here for too long. I must find another physical being, preferrably a female about my size, so that I can live again. You must do this for me if you truly care about me, Polaris."
"That may be difficult, if not impossible, Elatia," Polaris responded. "There are only two female Smurfs in this population, and the female called Smurfette is the only adult among the two. She may not even appreciate this one trying to use her form as a vessel for your spirit."
"Empath thought of me as just nothing more than a creation of your imagination, Polaris," Elatia said icily. "Meanwhile, his beloved Smurfette lives and breathes. I think it's time Empath knew how real I am, and what better way to prove it than through the form of Smurfette!"
Polaris was uncertain about what to do. He had barely begun to know Smurfette for the short time he had been in the Smurf Village since his exile from Psychelia. Would she be so willing to let him place Elatia's spirit within her physical form, even for a short while?
In another part of the village, in a mushroom cottage that was being used as a schoolhouse, Smurfette had the Smurflings finish a reading assignment from one of their study books. She asked if any of them had questions about what they read, but instead they had questions about something else they had in mind.
"Why is it that you and Empath smurf around with each other like you're trying to smurf it on with each other?" Snappy asked, curious.
"Snappy, that's a very unsmurfy question to ask Smurfette," Sassette barked, her face reddish-purple with embarrassment.
"It's okay, Sassette," Smurfette replied, smiling despite Snappy's boldness. "I'm smurfing to realize that young Smurfs do wonder about how male and female adult Smurfs interact with each other. The truth is, Empath and I are both very good friends and we are just learning for oursmurfs about each other and what each of us likes and dislikes. There's nothing wrong with that!"
"Well, I don't know," Slouchy smirked. "It smurfs like you're trying to smurf into more than just Empath's mind, if you know what I mean, Smurfette."
"You know it's all just mating rituals," Nat conjectured. "Like certain animals in the forest that smurf themselves off in front of their potential mates in order to attract them."
"Well, Empath certainly smurfed Smurfette's attention, all right," Snappy hooted. "It just makes me wonder what I can smurf for a 'mating ritual'!" He along with Nat and Slouchy snickered at that comment.
"Look, Smurflings, I'm sure it's very fascinating and very healthy to think about how male and female Smurfs smurf together and all," Smurfette said frankly, "but there's more to smurfing in love with someone than just the physical part of it. You have to know more about the female you want to smurf in love with and what she wants from a male, and you can't always expect her to smurf what you want with her. Besides, it's better to wait until you're married to smurf your love with her fully and openly so that she knows that you truly care for her with all your heart, mind, and soul."
"Funny that you're smurfing us that," Snappy griped, "since you don't seem like you're waiting to be married to Empath just so you can smurf your love fully and openly with him!"
"Snappy, we're just good friends, that's all," Smurfette reminded him. "Empath and I both know that we're not fully ready to smurf our love for each other. We do smurf a little carried away at times, but we never smurf anything to hurt each other. When the time smurfs that we are ready to fully share oursmurfs without holding back, we will smurf so after we are married, but not before then, and I know Empath pretty much knows that as well."
"Oh, what I wouldn't smurf to be in Empath's strong gentle arms right about now," Sassette sighed, sounding like she was lovestruck.
Suddenly the alarm clock went off, signaling the end of her school lesson. "Okay, that will be all for today, Smurflings," Smurfette announced. "Don't forget that you still have a smurfing assignment that you have to finish in the next few days! And don't smurf too much of your homesmurf time in the Imaginarium, either!"
"Sure, Smurfette, we'll smurf right on it!" Slouchy responded as he and the other Smurflings gathered their books and left their desks. Their next class was with Sculptor, who was going to show them how to mold intricate-looking vases out of clay, but Nat and Snappy were already thinking about throwing bits of clay around and making a mess in Sculptor's studio just for the fun of it.
Smurfette sighed as she watched the Smurflings leave the schoolhouse. She hoped that what she told the boy Smurflings about interacting with female Smurfs would eventually make them think twice about engaging in nasty talk about male and female Smurfs. Then again, they made her realize how strong her own desires for Empath really were, which made it doubly important for her to control how she interacted with Empath in front of other Smurfs, including the Smurflings. She didn't want to be teaching them anything that they were just too young to learn.
She gathered up her books and prepared to leave the schoolhouse herself when she suddenly encountered Polaris, still dressed only in his underwear.
"Polaris!" she greeted with a surprised look. "What's happened to you? Why are you smurfing around like that? Aren't you supposed to be helping Empath and Papa Smurf out today?"
"Smurfette, don't be afraid," Polaris told her with a desperate look in his eyes. "This one needs you to do something for this one."
"Uh...sure, what is it?" Smurfette asked.
"Just let this one place his hand on your forehead and simply stare into this one's minds-eye," Polaris instructed, his voice sounding eerie.
Smurfette felt fearful as Polaris reached out his right hand and planted it firmly on her forehead.
Empath told Papa Smurf in his laboratory about Polaris being in the Imaginarium with Elatia again.
"Hmmm, I do wonder sometimes about establishing rules resmurfing the use of the Imaginarium during smurfing hours, Empath," Papa Smurf finally said, stroking his beard. "But it seems like your friend Polaris has some things smurfing on in his mind that he hasn't smurfed with before when he was a student in Psychelia. I know from what you smurfed me about the Psyches that they have very strict rules of conduct when it smurfs to male and female interactions."
"This smurf suggested that he should try using the Imaginarium fantasy environment with the Elatia character to further explore the way he should interact with a female outside of Psychelia, Papa Smurf," Empath mentioned. "This smurf just didn't expect him to be so involved with this fantasy character to the point that he would confuse her for someone real."
"I know, Empath...that's one of the dangers of smurfing too much time in the Imaginarium," Papa Smurf replied. "But you said Polaris only smurfed her there yesterday, so that wouldn't smurf him much time to be that confused unless he is very susceptible to being confused."
"This smurf knows Polaris long enough to know he has a very solid foundation on which he could distinguish between fantasy and reality, Papa Smurf," Empath said. "It's possible that there is something else going on that only Polaris is fully aware of."
Papa Smurf was about to say something that was on his mind when they both heard a high-pitched scream from somewhere in the village. It was Smurfette.
"Great Ancestors!" Empath exclaimed. He and Papa Smurf raced over to the schoolhouse where they saw Polaris Psyche standing over Smurfette, who had fallen on her back, unconscious.
"Polaris Psyche, what have you smurfed to Smurfette?" Papa Smurf demanded.
Polaris was so stunned, he was uncertain of how to answer Papa Smurf. "This one...intended no harm to Smurfette...in any way...," he stammered.
Empath knelt down and felt Smurfette's forehead. "She's in shock, Papa Smurf. We must get her over to your laboratory so we can make a full examination of what had happened to her."
"I agree, Empath, but I'm afraid we're going to have to smurf your friend into custody so we can keep Smurfette safe and ask him some questions," Papa Smurf advised.
"Papa Smurf, this smurf trusts that Polaris wouldn't have intentionally meant to do Smurfette any physical or mental harm," Empath reminded him.
"I know you have trust in his innocence, Empath," Papa Smurf said, "but we must still smurf him to trial and judgment according to our laws nonetheless." He then called out to Hefty, who was just passing by at that moment. "I want you to smurf Polaris into the safehouse for the time smurfing and smurf watch over him until we can begin questioning him, Hefty."
"Right away, Papa Smurf," Hefty answered. Polaris allowed Hefty to take him away without any resistance whatsoever.