Chapter 4

"What did our people do to this Gargamel for us to deserve his wrath?" Empath asked Papa Smurf as the both of them were on their way back to the village.
"Years ago when you were away, Empath," Papa Smurf explained, "one of our Smurfs was kidnapped by him, though at the time we had no idea he was even in our forest. Brainy was the first Smurf to smurf us news of this Gargamel, and from there it took an entire village two days to rescue the Smurf from that wizard. We never smurfed any offensive action against him other than that, but since then he has vowed to smurf his revenge on us. No matter what we do to try helping him, he's still been spiteful and ungrateful."
"This smurf does not understand the concept of revenge," Empath commented, "but this smurf's encounter with Gargamel is not something this smurf wishes to repeat."
"It's a difficult world you've returned to here, Empath," Papa Smurf sighed. "We all must smurf with things we wish we could smurf without, no matter how dangerous they are."
Smurfette was waiting for Empath when he entered the village with Papa Smurf. "I've looked all over the village for you, Empath. Where have you been?" she demanded.
"Papa Smurf was in danger, so this smurf had to rescue him," Empath answered honestly. "Was there something important you need to talk to this smurf about?"
"Not really," Smurfette replied, "but you left Baby Smurf at your house with the Smurflings unattended. You shouldn't leave Baby alone like that!"
"This smurf couldn't see any real danger in leaving Baby in the care of the Smurflings, Smurfette," Empath said. "Is Baby Smurf your child or..."
"Not this again!" Smurfette huffed again, walking away in her own frustrated fury.
"As you said, Papa Smurf," Empath stated, "this is a truly difficult world this smurf has returned to."
"Don't feel too bad, Empath," Papa Smurf said consolingly. "You're not the only Smurf who has trouble trying to figure out Smurfette!" He let out a slight chuckle as he and Empath went to resume their personal duties.

Along the way, Empath decided to pay a visit to his friend Tapper Smurf, an Irish-speaking Smurf who ran a tavern serving sarsaparilla ale to his patrons, and Duncan McSmurf, a Scottish-speaking Smurf who was also Tapper's best friend. Tapper was recognized by the green tie and striped vest that he wore, including a hat that had a four-leaf clover pinned to it. Duncan was recognized by the fact that he was the only Smurf in the village that wore a green-plaid kilt. "Salutations, my fellow Smurfs," he greeted as soon as he entered the tavern.
"Greetings, my fellow Empath," Tapper said. "I'm sorry that I was too busy here in my tavern to smurf you upon your arrival in the village. How have you been for the past nine years that you were away from us?"
"For the most part, Tapper, this smurf was homesick," Empath said. "Being with the Psyches was an educational experience that this smurf will never forget, but it doesn't have the social aspect of being with you Smurfs and knowing you all personally."
"I don't suppose that you would recognize an old smurf when you see him, eh, Empath?" Duncan said as he turned around to face Empath.
Empath looked at Duncan and noticed something particularly different about him. "Great Ancestors, it's you, Duncan McSmurf!" Empath exclaimed. "This smurf almost didn't recognize you at first with the sideburns. When did you start wearing them?"
"I have been smurfing them over the past five or so years, laddie," Duncan answered. "They make me look and feel like a real Smurfsman, do they not?"
"This smurf wouldn't know what to say, except that you make this smurf feel jealous of you, Duncan," Empath said. "It basically completes the image in my head of how you would look as an adult Smurf, and how it makes you look, as Hefty would say, really 'gutsy'."
"Now don't you be calling me Gutsy now, Empath, you hear me?" Duncan said a bit sternly before breaking out in laughter and giving Empath a great big hug. "Oh, it's so great to be smurfing you back here where you belong with all your friends."
"This smurf has noticed that the village has gotten bigger with a few new Smurfs as part of the family, including this female named Smurfette," Empath said.
"Aye, that it has been, my fellow Empath," Tapper said. "What should matter is that we all smurf the same care and attention to the new arrivals as we smurf for the rest of us who have been smurfing there since we were wee ones."
"But this smurf senses from Smurfette that this smurf isn't treating her the way that she would want to be treated," Empath said. "Did this smurf do something wrong to her?"
"I'd say that you're just not used to smurfing a lassie in the village, Empath, especially one that all of us would want to marry someday," Duncan answered.
"That's what I would be smurfing there, Empath," Tapper said. "It may also be that she's not used to smurfing someone like you just yet, having experienced life in a place that she knows absosmurfly nothing about."
"This smurf does not mean to offend her, Tapper," Empath said. "It's just that this smurf knows next to nothing about how to interact with a Smurf of the opposite sex, particularly one who is the same age as us."
"You should have enough time during your visit with us to learn the basics of interacting with a Smurfette, Empath," Tapper said. "It's not going to easy for you at first, but we all had to smurf the hard way about how to interact with a Smurfette."
"Just think of how much fun you will smurf when you're alone with Smurfette, laddie," Duncan said.
"Duncan McSmurf, you should know better than to encourage Empath to ensmurf in a private activity that should be smurfed for marriage," Tapper said in a lecturing tone.
"I wasn't even thinking of that right now, Tapper," Duncan said with a slight laugh. "But honestly, who can think of smurfing anything else with Smurfette? She's such a fine lass that it makes me smurf such wonderful dreams of her."
"A female Smurf can make you have 'wonderful dreams' of her?" Empath asked, sounding curious.
"It's not something that I would be at liberty to discuss right now with you, Empath," Tapper said. "But trust me when I smurf that your life will not be the same with her being around as part of it now."
"This smurf understands and acknowledges, Tapper," Empath said, nodding with acceptance. "So is there anything special being planned for this smurf's birthday party this year?"
"I've only heard that Jokey and Tailor are smurfing on something together, but they've been very tight-smurfed about what it is," Tapper said.
"You're not going to smurf by his shop and give your old minds-eye a smurf at reading their minds to know what it is, laddie?" Duncan asked.
"Duncan, you should know that this smurf would never use his minds-eye in such an invasive fashion to know any Smurf's secrets," Empath said. "Besides, it would only ruin the surprise if this smurf knew beforehand just what it is that Jokey and Tailor are preparing together."
"Empath is right, my fellow Duncan," Tapper said. "We're not dealing with smurfing evil people who may be out to smurf whatever they want with us. This is our family, and we should let our family members feel free to smurf whatever it is they want without feeling like they're being smurfed on."
"Well, it was only a suggestion anyway, Empath," Duncan said. "Anyway, just smurf with me, and I'll make a real Smurfsman out of you."
"Would this also include having this smurf wear a kilt like you, Duncan?" Empath asked.
"How can you be a real Smurfsman without it?" Duncan said. "Of course, the real challenge would be to smurf it without your pants on, as real McSmurfs would wear their kilts...even though I may find it a wee bit embarrassing."
Tapper laughed. "I don't think our friend is in that much of a hurry to emulate the legendary McSmurf clan, my fellow Duncan."
"We'll see if the laddie is gutsy enough to smurf it, Tapper," Duncan said.
"Well, Empath is free to be whatever Smurf he wants to smurf himself after, my friend, and he is free to be his own Smurf if he wants to," Tapper said.
"Indeed this smurf is free, Tapper, for this smurf will no longer be able to go back to Psychelia now that this smurf has been permanently exiled from that place," Empath said.
"Permanently exiled? You?" Duncan said, not believing his ears. "Michty me, I didn't know that's what happened to you, laddie."
"You're going to miss your only friend in Psychelia, I can tell," Tapper said. "Well, I'm sure that you'll remember him for as long as you smurf, even if he doesn't remember you, Empath. For now, though, you still have a family to smurf with here in the village, now that you're free."
Empath smiled at the realization. "You are correct, Tapper. Things may be different here now, but at least this smurf is home with his family, and that's all that matters."

By late afternoon, Empath's birthday party was underway. Everybody who sat around the X-shaped table in the village center waiting for Greedy to bring out the birthday cake was entertained with some music the Smurflings performed with their jugband instruments, as well as Jokey's endless tricks and gags, some of which included some other Smurfs who didn't quite like being the butt of Jokey's humor. Clumsy didn't seem to mind, though, for he also had a juggling act of his own that wound up with him tripping over himself or getting bonked by his own juggling things. Empath enjoyed every minute of the show.
Then came Greedy with his cake, and every Smurf stopped what they were doing to sing: "We wish you a happy smurfday...we wish a happy smurfday...we wish you a happy smurfday...and a welcome back home!"
There were so many candles on his cake, Empath didn't know if he could blow them all out in one breath. So he basically faked it by taking as big a breath as he could and just exhaling it while snuffing out the candles with his mind powers. All the Smurfs cheered for Empath while he pretended to look slightly embarrassed for resorting to such a cheap trick.
"This year, Empath," Greedy announced, "we're smurfing up a new treat to go with your smurfday's called 'ice cream'. It took a small accident to make it happen, however, with myself creating the accident with Handy's air consmurfener. But I think you are really going to enjoy it, almost as much as I do."
Empath couldn't wait to try it out, but first he had to open up his presents to see what his fellow Smurfs had given him this year -- not that he preferred anything in particular, but he did appreciate the effort. Of course, Jokey turned out to be the first one to give him a present, which looked too much like all his gag giftboxes to all the other Smurfs. "Hey, Empath, I've got a little smurfday surprise for you to open right now!" Jokey announced with a slight impish snicker.
Empath recognized this present as looking like one of his gag giftboxes as well, for he opened one unwittingly years ago and was surprised to the point of total dumbfoundedness when it exploded and Jokey laughed. Papa Smurf had to explain that it was a harmless joke. It took years for Empath to realize and understand that concept.
"A surprise for me, Jokey?" Empath exclaimed. "This smurf would be honored to accept it."
Taking the giftbox, Empath felt tempted to use his mind power to examine its contents and find out what's really inside it, so he would not be fooled. But then Empath felt that that would ruin the surprise Jokey had set up for him. So Empath decided to take a chance and open the box to find out.
Jokey snickered in anticipation while everybody else tensed as they watched Empath remove the ribbon and open the box lid.
"Great Ancestors!" Empath exclaimed. "Is this for me?"
To everyone's relief, the box didn't explode. But now they were anxious to see what Empath saw in the box that made him perked with excitement. "What is it?" someone asked.
Empath pulled out of the box a Smurf hat and a pair of pants, both of which were black with silvery white stars embroidered on. The Smurfs were truly surprised by this gift.
"That gift was my idea, Empath," Tailor explained. "I felt that you needed a suit that made you smurf so distinguished from all the other Smurfs, so I used some black fabric and smurfed the stars on mysmurf. I wanted to surprise you, so I got Jokey to present it to you."
"Well, this smurf was certainly surprised by this interesting gift," Empath remarked favorably, "but this smurf doesn't know if this smurf should accept this gift..."
"Why don't you smurf it on?" Tailor suggested. "Maybe you'll like it after you smurf yourself in that suit."
Empath looked to Papa Smurf for what he would have to say about trying this gift out, since this didn't look like something a traditional Smurf might wear. "It's your gift, Empath," Papa Smurf told him, "but I have no arguments against you or any Smurf wearing anything out of the ordinary."
"Aw, smurf on, Empath," some Smurf cried out. "Let's see how it smurfs on you!"
Other Smurfs started encouraging Empath to try on his suit as well. "All right, everyone," Empath replied. "If it will satisfy your curiosity, this smurf will try on the suit, but this smurf can't promise that this smurf will be wearing it much!"
As Empath went to his house to change into the new suit, Greedy started serving the cake and ice cream to the Smurfs while they were waiting for Empath to return. Papa Smurf told Greedy to make sure he saved some for Empath.
"Ready or not, here this smurf comes!" Empath announced a few minutes later as he returned, wearing the new suit. All the Smurfs looked at him, not believing what they saw.
" that really you?"
"Absosmurfly smurftabulous!"
"Awesome, man. Smurfally awesome threads!"
"Smurf about being a real star!"
"Really brings out the smurf in you!"
They couldn't say enough about how Empath looked now wearing the suit. Smurfette, however, had more on her mind than just commenting. She went up to Empath and kissed him on the cheek. "Sorry I didn't have anything to give you for your smurfday, Empath," she said.
Empath looked at Smurfette, not knowing what to say. Her kiss made him feel so warm inside, so incredibly strangely warm like nothing he ever felt before.
"Attention, my little Smurfs," Papa Smurf announced. "As you all know, today we celebrate Empath's birthday. However, today is also the day that Empath is no longer a guest of the village...he is now a free Smurf and a member with all the rights and privileges. He will be with us for as long as he wants to be. So let's give him a toast!"
The Smurfs responded by raising their glasses of smurfberry juice, singing, "For he's a smurfy good fellow..." and cheering Empath afterward.
Empath was a very happy Smurf that night. He never thought that such a good thing would come from being released from the Psyche Master's care. Now that he was a full member of the Smurf Village, he started to see a bright new future for himself, full of hope and an entire family to help him make each new day of that future a good one for him.
For now, he hugged Papa Smurf and thanked him for a birthday wish that finally came true. He was free.

Later on after the birthday party, Tapper and Duncan were walking with Empath back to his house, with Empath wearing his new star-patterned black suit. "So you think you'd be smurfing those fancy new smurfs for a while now, laddie?" Duncan asked.
"It does make this smurf feel different and special, Duncan, just like you with the kilt and the sideburns," Empath said. "It's just that this smurf has lived so long with wanting to be like the other Smurfs, it's difficult to decide whether this smurf really wants to stand out among them."
"It's your choice if you want to smurf your new clothes or not, Empath," Tapper said. "But as far as smurfing out among your brethren, you've already accomplished that without the need of new clothes. There's been many a Smurf who would want to smurf the abilities that you possess."
"Except for Hefty," Empath said. "This smurf senses from him that he would never want to be anything like this smurf."
"There's nothing wrong with that, Empath," Duncan said. "If he wants to prove himself to his fellow Smurfs that muscles are the only thing a Smurf needs to smurf by in this world, he's gotta smurf what a Smurf's gotta smurf."
"That doesn't mean that Hefty can't change, my fellow Duncan," Tapper said. "But I would feel rather disappointed if Hefty tried to smurf himself as something that he is not. I guess I'm just too used to him being the strong Smurf in the least one of the strongest."
"This smurf shares your sentiments, Tapper," Empath said as soon as they reached his house. "Anyway, it's been great being with you Smurfs again. This smurf will see you both again in the morning."
"Aye, have a good night's smurf, laddie," Duncan said.
"We will smurf you again tomorrow, my fellow Empath," Tapper said before he and Duncan departed.
Empath went inside his house to prepare himself for bed. As he looked up at the night sky, he could imagine his friend Polaris Psyche having to live his life in Psycehlia without him now. "Polaris, this smurf knows that you won't be able to read this smurf's thoughts now, but this smurf still wants to tell you very much that this smurf wishes that you were here with me," he said. "It's going to be hard being intimate with somebody who isn't a telepath like you or this smurf. But whether we remain friends or become enemies, this smurf will never stop thinking of you. May you rest well tonight in Psychelia, my fellow Psyche."
And with that, Empath got into his bed and fell asleep.