"Now that you've just made Hefty smurf like a chump, Empath, where are you now smurfing?" Jokey asked playfully, sounding like he was a news reporter, as Empath tried to get through the crowd and away from the center of attention.
Empath missed the intended joke entirely when he saw Smurfette outside the crowd. He called out to her and left Jokey behind to deliver the punchline to whoever would listen.
"Well, you've smurfed it here, folks!" Jokey continued with his reporter act. "The one and only Empath is going off to Ditzy Land!"
"Smurfette, your presence here is certainly a surprise," Empath remarked when he got close enough to her. "What brought you to watch this type of event?"
"I just felt that I needed to say I'm sorry for how I treated you yesterday," she answered a little pleasantly. "Not that I like arm-wrestling much, but I see you have won out against Hefty. I don't know if I should congratulate you or not."
"Personally, this smurf would rather be anywhere other than here right now," Empath admitted. "This smurf could talk to you on the way if you don't mind."
"Not at all!" Smurfette handed Baby to Papa Smurf and walked with Empath away from the now-dispersing crowd talking among themselves.
"You know, I honestly never heard of you before yesterday," Smurfette began when she and Empath were alone, "but I believed you would be different from all the other Smurfs. I mean, I didn't think you'd be smurfing your strength against Hefty or any male-smurfing stuff..."
"Just because this smurf does those type of things doesn't necessarily mean this smurf enjoys doing those type of things," Empath explained. "This smurf just wants to be like one of them so this smurf wouldn't feel so isolated. That doesn't mean this smurf would jump off a cliff if they told me that was part of being a Smurf."
"Not that you'd fall from one, anyway!" Smurfette laughed a little before she continued. "But what I meant was if you smurf anything else besides...you know, like using your powers or trying to be like every other Smurf."
"Well, this smurf does has a passion for art and literature, for learning about nature, history, philosophy..." Empath responded.
"Would this include the nature of love?" Smurfette asked a little suggestively.
"This smurf would suppose so," Empath answered, ignoring the suggestion, "though this smurf has never seen such a phenomenon happen before even with the Psyches."
Smurfette didn't like how that sounded. "Are you saying that I'm just some phenomenon for you to examine?"
"This smurf never said that," Empath answered, "though this smurf has to admit that this smurf has never seen a female Smurf before, nor has this smurf believed that female Smurfs even existed."
"I'm feeling that I might not exist at all in your mind," Smurfette said, somewhat nonplused. "You certainly didn't smurf Sassette like she never existed."
"Sassette's a young child," Empath tried to explain, "and this smurf treated her as such. It's just that this smurf doesn't know how to..."
"Well, until you figure it out, just don't bother with me!" Smurfette snapped at Empath, walking away from him again in disgust.
That night, while all the other Smurfs were sleeping, Empath was still awake, working on a canvas painting by using his right foot to manipulate a paintbrush. He could easily use either of his hands or his feet to apply the brush strokes with the same mastery of his friend Painter, who could only use his left hand. Empath believed in making himself more physically skilled this way so he wouldn't be at the mercy of having to relearn simple hand skills if he should ever become disabled.
Strangely tonight, though, Empath was doing his candlelight artwork dressed up only in a hat and a towel, for his mind was thinking about Smurfette, who thought and felt that Empath had no feelings for her as if she wasn't anything important in his life. But since he first laid eyes on her, Empath felt such strong feelings that he had never felt before -- in his mind, in his heart, and now in his body -- and those feelings were only for her. She was all the beauty of nature and a warm sunshine in a living breathing physical form, the best things he knew about being a Smurf made into a real person, a female person. She was also like the forces of nature herself, unafraid to express both the strong and gentle sides of herself in any situation, while Empath felt so confined, so unable to do the same himself.
As he continued to express those thoughts about Smurfette onto his canvas, he now saw in his mind himself and Smurfette alone with each other, kissing each other very passionately, the only form of communication they would ever need, with nothing held back. He felt what he saw as well as if it had actually happened, which was a pleasurable and yet somehow disturbing experience. Empath's foot dropped the paintbrush as the feeling overtook him, and he had to take deep breaths to regain control of his thoughts before picking the paintbrush back up and resuming.
He was amazed by how this one Smurf made him feel all those things just by her presence alone. No other Smurf had ever made him feel this way. He never even felt it in Psychelia; there were both male and female Psyches in that place, but they never get together for anything other than working together, and they never had or expressed any feelings for each other. It didn't make any sense to Empath why there would be any females in Psychelia, especially since the Psyche Master creates all of his offspring in a manner beyond Empath's comprehension. It was just as puzzling to figure out how his fellow Smurfs came to be, with Papa Smurf being not only the only parent they knew, but also male. Someday, he thought, he will find out how.
Empath didn't finish his painting. He fell asleep sprawled out on the floor, his right foot clutching his paintbrush, his candle burned out, his mind still holding a picture of Smurfette in his dreams.
The next day, while Empath was busy being the assistant counselor, he saw the Smurflings playing with Puppy near their treestump playhouse. The more he saw them playing, the more he felt that he must be missing something important in his life, and the more he felt the work he was doing seem pointless and burdensome. Empath decided to just call it a day right at that moment and spend his time with the Smurflings for the remainder of the day. His fellow Smurfs were more than capable of dealing with their own problems, he thought.
"We were wondering when you were going to smurf around to us," Snappy said when Empath came to them. "We were beginning to think you were like the other grown-up Smurfs...always too busy and never having any time to play with us."
"This smurf hasn't forgotten what it's like to be a Smurfling, though this smurf hasn't had as much time as the other Smurfs did to enjoy this smurf's childhood," Empath said. "What this smurf wouldn't give to be like this smurf's favorite storybook hero, Smurfling Pan."
"Smurfling Pan...a storybook hero?" Snappy howled. "Just so happens that Smurfling Pan is a real Smurf; in fact, me, Slouchy, and Nat used to smurf in his adventures back on Smurfling Island, even as far back as when that female Smurfling named Wendy..."
"You mean...you were actually part of the Lost Smurflings?" Empath asked, surprised by his knowledge.
"It's what Snap said and meant, man," Slouchy replied.
Natural told Empath about the real Smurfling Island they came from...which, to Empath's surprise, matched the description of it from the storybook. On that island, there were both Smurflings and adult Smurfs that never aged for centuries. At first it was paradise, but then in time the children and the adults began to fight each other before they separated, the children becoming the Lost Smurflings and the adults becoming pirates and other hideous outlaws. One of the Smurflings became their leader and hero Smurfling Pan, who repeatedly took on the infamous Captain Smurfhook, the dreaded pirate king. Neither Pan nor Smurfhook got the upper hand over each other, though Smurfhook did lose his hand to Pan, and their lives became a never-ending series of childhood adventures.
"Baby Smurf came from that island as well, the first one born on Smurfling Island," Natural continued. "We rescued him from his pirate parents, but he could never grow up and become a Smurfling on that island. So we smurfed him by stork across the ocean to the Smurf Village where he could be raised."
"But we weren't gonna let these grown-up Smurfs turn the little tyke into a grown-up Smurf as well," Snappy interrupted, "so we followed Baby to this village. It took us longer to get here, since the magic that made us fly lasted until we smurfed the shore, but we made it and we even smurfed Puppy along from wherever he came from."
"Thing was," Slouchy broke in, "by the time we got to the Smurf Village, we had the urge to stay here. Maybe we just wanna grow up with Baby, or maybe we were so bored of Smurfling Island, but we knew we couldn't go back there."
"Maybe it was Sassette that made you want to stay here," Empath guessed.
"She didn't smurf along until after we came here," Natural answered. "Miner found her inside a crystal. None of us knew how she was smurfed inside there, but Papa Smurf used his magic to break the crystal open."
"Lucky for us that she knew her name, or else she would've been as dumb as that ragged doll she smurfs around with her," Snappy added.
"You two are the dumbsmurfs, because that's not how I came here," Sassette whined. "Pappy Gargamel made me out of the blue clay he used to make Smurfette, and Papa Smurf used his magic to save me from the evil spells I was under when I was created."
"I can't believe you still believe in that Pappy Gargamel story, Sassette," Snappy shot back.
Empath couldn't tell who was telling the truth since he couldn't sense any deception from any of the Smurflings, but the argument between them over her true origin was getting nasty.
"This smurf believes you both," he said kindly, "but the mystery of her origin isn't worth getting angry at each other over. She's here, and we're all her friends, and that's what really matters, right?"
"I can smurf with that," Slouchy replied. "It wouldn't be worth smurfing 'round here if Sassy didn't come along!"
"Word up on that!" Snappy agreed.
Sassette smiled a private thank-you to Empath.
"Now that you're here, and you want to smurf with us, let's see if you can fly like Smurfling Pan," Slouchy suggested, "that is, if you don't mind smurfing us!"
"Only if you will fly along with this smurf," Empath answered. He reached out with his mind and lifted himself and the Smurflings high off the ground until they reached the tallest trees bordering the village. The Smurflings were awestruck at first, but then as they were propelled along with Empath back downward and then flying over the rooftops of the Smurf houses, they became ecstatic with the thrill that they were experiencing the ride of their lives.
"Look...up in the sky!" Natural announced as he flapped his arms outward. "I'm a bird...I'm a crane...I'm--"
"Smurfling Pan!" Snappy shouted, "Defender of the Lost Smurflings, smurfing the never-ending battle for truth, justice, and good times galore!"
"You must have a lot of happy thoughts to be able to smurf this!" Sassette cried out as she coasted close to Empath.
"It only takes one for this smurf," Empath answered, pleased with himself and his company. "Now hang on to your smurfs, because it only gets better from here!"
And Empath flew with the Smurflings following him out into areas of the forest they have never seen from on high, or even like this. The Smurflings had to agree that this Smurf certainly can measure up to their own childhood legend from far away and long ago.
Smurfette, meanwhile, was taking Baby Smurf for a walk that day when she saw Empath and the Smurflings flying over her, having a good time. Baby Smurf looked up at them and was squealing as if he wanted to join them in flight. Smurfette was surprised to see Baby Smurf suddenly take off and follow the Smurflings in midair before she could grab him.
Frustrated at first by the temporary loss of Baby, Smurfette couldn't help admiring the passing scene. Empath certainly wasn't what she expected him to be, not even in the way of being a Smurf. She didn't know if that was a good thing or not, but she had to wonder what's it like to be him, with the powers he possessed. She figured that even if Empath didn't have any of those powers, he'd probably still never be anything like all the other Smurfs, who seem to be too full of themselves and of each other.
But why hasn't Empath ever really noticed her the way she wanted him to notice her, she wondered. Maybe she was just expecting too much from him too soon. Maybe she was expecting him to be like all the other Smurfs, who seem to fall in love with her at first sight. Maybe she has yet to understand him fully. Or maybe...
Smurfette sighed. Empath may not notice her yet, but she will try to get his attention -- and in time his affections -- no matter how long it takes.
Hefty, whose arm was still sore from losing to Empath in arm-wrestling, was still soured over his loss. He saw Empath and the Smurflings fly by over him and was feeling disgusted. Every Smurf seems to admire Empath over him, in fact so much that it made Hefty feel like he was nothing. He spent his life building himself to physical perfection, and if it weren't for his fear of heights, Hefty felt strong enough to let nothing stand in his way to greatness. But Empath was beyond the ordinary Smurf even in strength, and all those other abilities Empath had in addition seem to be taking all the glory away from him.
Hefty jogged away, still scowling at Empath. Somehow, someday, he was going to take Empath down from his pedestal and show every Smurf that he's no more special than anyone else. And then, only Hefty will come up on top, as it was meant to be.
At the same time, in a small park on the outskirts of the village, several Smurfs were busy doing some work with a statue. "You sure that Empath's going to like what we're smurfing here?" one of them asked.
"Trust me," another Smurf said, "when Empath smurfs a load of this, he's going to be so proud of us that he's going to wonder why he's never smurfed anything like this before."
"Gee, I don't know," mumbled a third. "Empath doesn't seem to be the Smurf who'd go along with something like this."
"Oh, how could he not?" the second Smurf exclaimed. "He knows how much we admire him, for the type of Smurf he is, and for all that he's done. But believe me, that will be nothing compared to what he's going to smurf against Gargamel!"
Papa Smurf was wondering what Empath has been up to for much of the day. He hasn't seen him around with anyone lately, though he certainly has been seeing more of the other Smurfs that day than he wanted to. Empath wasn't the type of Smurf who would just drop whatever he was doing unless it was some kind of emergency outside the village that required his attention. He and Brainy eventually found Empath, however, by the Smurflings' treestump playhouse, playing with the Smurflings, Baby, and Puppy. All of them were having a good time, and Empath looked as if he was really enjoying himself.
"Shouldn't you scold Empath for abandoning his duties as your assistant counselor, Papa Smurf?" Brainy complained.
"Brainy, I do believe you complain a bit too much," Papa Smurf chuckled. "I don't think he abandoned his duties so much as he just smurfed his job differently today. The Smurflings need somebody like him much more than anybody else here, even if only as a playmate who's got more time on his smurfs to spend with them."
"Well, it truly doesn't sound to me like he's smurfing his job seriously," noted Brainy.
"We'll smurf him be for today, Brainy," Papa Smurf said. "Besides, I think Empath does take his job seriously enough -- even if he doesn't act serious about it at times. With all that he's smurfed through, I think he's entitled to living it up this way!"
As Papa Smurf continued to watch Empath and the Smurflings, he couldn't help looking back and thinking of those things he felt was missing from his own life.
"Ah, what I wouldn't give to be young again," he sighed.