Empath was interrupted from seeing into his father's memories when he heard Papa Smurf in his present sounding like he was ready to break into tears after what he told his own son.
"It really must have been painful having to go through leaving this smurf with the Psyche Master, assuming that it was really you who did that, and then being led to believe that this smurf died," Empath commented with some sympathy. "Maybe it would be better if we waited for another day before we continue on."
"I will be all right, Empath," Papa Smurf replied, taking a deep breath to regain control of his emotions. "I always feared smurfing you that because I didn't know how you would smurf the truth. But as painful as smurfing through that was for me, what happened after that when I came back to the Smurf Village was harder."
"How did my mother, Lillithina, react when you told her what you now told this smurf?" Empath asked.
"There was no fury that smurfed that of your mother when I told her," Papa Smurf said glumly. "She called me every bad name in the smurf, she accused me of killing her only son, she smurfed me so hard in the face that I couldn't look at mysmurf in the mirror, and finally she wanted me out of her life forever."
"Did you leave the village?" Empath asked.
"No, though at the time I wished I did because I felt so ashamed of mysmurf. I didn't want to be smurfed by anyone in the village, but I hated being away from my fellow Smurfs, and I didn't want to live away from them again. Instead, I smurfed a place to stay with a friend of mine who smurfed me his laboratory, and kept mysmurf busy with various experiments that I never got started on, living in isolation."
"What happened to my mother?" Empath asked.
"Lillithina smurfed happiness with another fellow Smurf of mine named Aristotle, a real intellectual who bored every Smurf but me with his ideas and opinions about everything. Somehow he took her in, and smurfed her back what I smurfed from her -- a son that she called Brainy, from the first day he laid smurfs on a book she read to him." Papa Smurf sighed sadly just thinking about that. "The only way I could give you back at the time was to have somebody smurf a statue of you, of the exceptional Smurf you might have grown up to be, as your memorial. When it was finished, I stood alone in front of it and I smurfed for you."
Empath was silent for a moment, thinking. "You said that I was your only real son, Papa Smurf. Then how did Brainy and all the other Smurfs started calling you Papa Smurf?"
"Fifty years afterward," Papa Smurf answered, "I had to witness yet another tragedy -- this time with my fellow Smurfs. It started when the father of Painter and Poet died from some disease that no Smurf had ever heard about, and then it started to smurf to every adult Smurf in the village. The best minds of medicine had no idea how to fight against the disease, so in desperation they smurfed to me."
As Empath listened to Papa Smurf continuing his story, he saw at that his father Culliford, fifty years older and slightly graying, watching as Poet and Painter's father was carried away on a stretcher by his fellow Smurfs. He then saw Culliford and some others examining other adult Smurfs who began to show symptoms of the same disease, and struggling to find the cause of the disease in order to find its cure.
"What baffled me as much as it did the best minds smurfing on the problem," Papa Smurf explained, "was that the disease had no effect on the little Smurfs or even me. But even that didn't help us. All of my fellow Smurfs were dying, and all I could do was watch them die. Watching your mother, Lillithina, die was the worst!"
Empath saw at that point his father sitting by his mother's bedside, looking at her as she struggled for the last several minutes of life left just to tell him something important. Brainy wanted to stay with his mother to the end, but Lillithina sent him outside to play with his fellow Smurfs so that they could have her last moment with her husband alone.
"Brainy has no father to look up to now since Aristotle passed away," she spoke with great difficulty. "Promise me, my dear Culliford, you will look after Brainy while I smurf care of Empathy in the hereafter. He's all that I have left to give you!"
"I promise to you I will!" Culliford answered, holding his wife's hand gently. "I want you to know that I'm sorry that I smurfed Empathy away from you like I did."
"I know," Lillithina whispered, "and I forgive you."
Then she drew her last breath and closed her eyes forever. As she did, Culliford wept for her.
"As more of my fellow Smurfs died," Papa Smurf continued, "I was left with more with their children, and as much as I yearned to be a father again, I didn't expect it to happen like this, with more Smurflings than I can handle by mysmurf. Fortunately, those few adult Smurfs that were still alive and active smurfed me all the help they could smurf, teaching whatever would be useful for the children to survive. Somehow, they smurfed that I would outlive them, so they trusted that I would always be there for the children when they themselves would smurf on, and that I would help the children grow into adulthood and someday smurf children of their own so that the village would survive."
Then Empath saw at that point his father, alone with 97 Smurflings -- Empath's own fellow Smurfs -- in the village, making a fateful annoucement. Most of the Smurflings looked uneasy as Culliford spoke, but they bravely listened.
"My little Smurfs," he said, "from this day on we now face a new way of life in the village. This is going to be as much difficult for you as it will be for me, so I am asking all of you Smurfs to help me. I know some of you are already very skilled in the essential tasks of the village while the rest of you may have little or none of those skills on hand. We will need to learn how to cooperate with each other, learn from each other, smurf out for each other, and just be there for each other. Only by working together can we smurf the strength to carry on and survive, as all of your parents would have wanted you to do. I will do my best to be there for each and every one of you and care for you as my own, because you are all now my little Smurfs."
"Don't worry, Uncle Smurf!" a Smurfling named Handy spoke out. "We'll help you smurf care of things so you won't have to do it all. We'll smurf our best to make you proud of us, won't we?"
"Well, if he is, then I smurftainly will!" another Smurfling named Hefty joined in.
"Count me in, too!" Brainy, the third Smurfling, insisted. A dozen other Smurflings made similar statements, and then finally all the others did the same.
"Uh, just one thing, Uncle Smurf," a fourth Smurfling named Clumsy asked. "What do we call you now?"
Culliford chuckled at the question. "I'm not your Uncle Smurf anymore, Clumsy. From now on, you can just call me Papa Smurf!"
"Papa Smurf?!?" every Smurfling exclaimed.
The current Papa Smurf chuckled himself, recalling that one moment when every one of his little Smurfs was shocked by having to call him that name now.
"From that day on," he continued, resuming his serious tone, "Culliford as my name died along with the rest of my fellow Smurfs, as I undersmurfed a transformation into my new identity as the Papa Smurf. I smurfed more hours being awake, as well as an incredible amount of energy, trying to settle every dispute, answer every question, teach every simple task, and just be there for all my little Smurfs at the same time. At first it exhausted me to the point where I wished I could enjoy the smurfful peace of my wife and my own fellow Smurfs in their graves, but after about twenty years of this, we finally became adjusted to this new way of smurfing and I became more relieved and friendlier."
Empath saw all of that as well through Papa Smurf's recollections -- his trials and tribulations with every single young Smurf, then that day when Papa Smurf just stood back and watched as his little Smurfs took care of everything in the village, feeling proud about what he accomplished through his efforts.
"That's how you became a leader!" Empath figured it out. "That must have made you happy!"
"Well, even a Papa Smurf needs time for himself," Papa Smurf mentioned, "so when fewer of my little Smurfs needed me for anything, I used what spare time I had to resmurf my projects in the laboratory, being careful to balance my time between personal work and being a father figure. But I still felt empty without you in my life, and just when I thought I could smurf on beyond the pain of losing you back then, along come a beacon of hope!"
Empath saw at this point a young Brainy Smurf approaching an even grayer-bearded Papa Smurf with a scrolled-up message. "I found this smurfed from the sky somewhere in the village, and it was addressed to Culliford Smurf!" he announced.
"Culliford Smurf?" Papa Smurf asked. Apparently, he knew it was for him, but he made no mention of that to Brainy as he took the message and opened it up to read.
"Your presence is required in the temple of the Psyche Master regarding the progress of your son Empath," Papa Smurf read aloud before he found himself surprised and starting a feel a little angry. "Empathy is alive?!? Oh, how dare he makes me smurf..."
"Is something wrong, Papa Smurf?" Brainy asked, concerned about Papa's reaction.
"Nothing that I couldn't handle, Brainy," Papa Smurf replied, controlling his emotions. "Tell Hefty that he's in charge until I return. This shouldn't smurf long."
"Yes, Papa Smurf, whatever you say!" Brainy said eagerly as Papa Smurf headed toward a stable in the village where a stork was waiting.
"The first time I remembered smurfing to Psychelia," the current Papa Smurf told the current Empath, "I truly felt the Psyche Master treated me like an outsider... nobody of any importance that he could smurf with on an even level. Well, when I smurfed back there seventy years later, I felt that my being a leader of the Smurf Village would make my next consmurftation with the Psyche Master more equal. More than ever, I wanted you back and alive!"
Empath saw at this point Papa Smurf as he was back then returning to the Psyche Master's temple, with nobody stopping him on his way. This time around, as Papa Smurf entered the temple, it was him who started talking.
"I am now Papa Smurf, leader of the Smurf Village," he addressed the Psyche Master in a tone that demanded respect. "The Smurf you once knew as Culliford died when you made me believe that my own son was dead. So tell me what have you smurfed with him that I never knew about?"
"First of all, Papa Smurf, I know who you are, so you will not try to talk above me like that!" the Psyche Master spoke ominously. "Secondly, your son, whom we have called Empath, is functioning normally and has begun his training as a Psyche with a satisfactory performance so far. What I did with him back then when you left him in my care is erase his memories so that he will not be distracted by them in his training. It would be in his best interests for him not to know anything of his true origins until he is released."
"What you did to him is unsmurflike," Papa Smurf protested, "and not letting me smurf how you do things is unfair. Besides, who are you to judge what Empath should know about himself or where he comes from?"
"You are not talking to a Smurf here," the Psyche Master responded, "so leave your ideas of fairness out of this. I do not allow outsiders to witness how the Psyches function as a society here because we do not need the outside influence of savage beings like you to shape how we are supposed to live."
"I'm not here to smurf about how you smurf your lives," Papa Smurf reminded him sharply. "I came here to see my son, and I want to see him now so that I know you are not hiding anything about him from me."
The Psyche Master sounded as if he too was getting tired of debating. "Since you are not convinced, I will allow you to see him in this temple. Acknowledge!"
"Thank you, Psyche Master!" Papa Smurf responded.
They waited a while until Empath walked into the temple, and Papa Smurf recognized him as he came in. He was the same age as the other Smurflings and still had the yellow star on his forehead. But now he wore a black bodysuit that concealed his hands, with silver cuffs on his wrists and ankles. Except for his bald head, Empath looked like one of the Psyches.
"Empath Psyche, designation 1137-K, acknowledging his presence," he announced in a voice of no particular emotion as he bowed to the Psyche Master.
"Empath Psyche, you have a visitor here from a place called the Smurf Village who claims that you are of his people," the Psyche Master introduced. "You are to address him as Papa Smurf."
Empath turned to Papa Smurf. "Salutations, Papa Smurf!" he started to say, but his voice fell away when his eyes noticed something about Papa Smurf that made his eyes open wide with curiosity. He went over to Papa Smurf and examined him all over with his eyes, noting every detail of this being -- his face, his body, his skin, even his tail. Then Empath ripped open a hole in his bodysuit and examined his own hand through the tear. He was shocked.
"Great Ancestors!" he exclaimed. "How could this be...that this one shares the same skin tone with a half-naked, misshapen, bald, bearded savage of a being?"
Papa Smurf frowned.
Smurf to Part 10