Empath was quietly sitting in solitude in his own house, meditating, when Papa Smurf entered. “Empath, what’s smurfen into you?” he demanded, more worried than angry. “Why did you beat up Vanity?”
“This smurf doesn’t know, Papa Smurf,” Empath replied. “This smurf felt as if a fellow Psyche was there in the village, accusing me of something that this smurf did in Psychelia some time prior to this smurf’s coming home for good. This smurf didn’t even know it was Vanity that this smurf was beating upon until you caused Jokey’s surprise package to explode in front of this smurf.”
“Look, I don’t pretend to know everything that’s smurfened to you while you were away in Psychelia,” Papa Smurf spoke as he sat himself down on the floor with Empath. “But you have to not let those things smurf control of you like that, even to the point of hurting your fellow Smurf.”
“This smurf knows that, Papa Smurf,” Empath responded with some trembling in his voice. “But this smurf is scared, afraid of letting any Smurf know of what this smurf did in Psychelia that may and would require this smurf’s life to be forfeited. And these hauntings aren’t helping this smurf try to maintain any semblance of control over this fear.”
Papa Smurf sighed. “Look, Redemption Day is only a day away. Whatever’s smurfing on with you regarding these hauntings, you need to find a way to smurf to terms with it and smurf clean confessing it. You’re not going to have any peace of mind smurfing it in you to the point where you may end up hurting someone or even yoursmurf.”
Empath nodded. “This smurf will do my best to make sure this fear does not take control of this smurf. This smurf only hopes that Vanity wasn’t seriously hurt by this smurf’s uncontrolled outburst.”
“Vanity is injured, Empath, but he will be fine,” Papa Smurf replied. “Tapper is with him right now to let him know that what you smurfed to him wasn’t intentional, though whether he will forgive you for it is up to him.” He picked himself up off the floor and headed toward the door. “I am relieving you of your duties for the rest of the day. Smurf this time to try smurfing a grip on yoursmurf until the time comes tomorrow for every Smurf to make confession for what they have smurfed.”
“This smurf will do so, Papa Smurf,” Empath answered as Papa Smurf left his house.
As Empath returned to his meditation, his thoughts were now on what happened when Empath was a young Smurfling, during one of his visits to the Smurf Village. As Empath and Tracker were out in the forest, exploring the wildlife that was out there, they came across a bird that was horribly injured, lying on the ground. Empath and Tracker went to examine it, and through Empath’s touch-telepathy, which he at that point was still in the process of learning how to use, he found out that the bird was dying.
“We should smurf this bird back to the village and see Papa Smurf about how we should treat it,” Tracker suggested.
“That would be a foolish decision, given the condition that this animal is in,” Empath countered, rather dispassionately. “We should leave this bird where it is and allow its life to terminate naturally.”
Tracker looked at Empath with total disbelief that a Smurf should even talk like that. “Empath, this is a living creature, not some machine,” he objected. “We can’t just smurf it here and smurf our hands clean – not while we have the chance to smurf it back to life before it dies.”
“There’s nothing about this creature that makes it as important enough as a Smurf or a Psyche that we should bother expending our resources trying to resuscitate,” Empath noted. “There are more of its own kind out in the forest.”
“Empath, this bird could be the mother of some young baby birds,” Tracker explained, trying to get him to see the importance of preserving a non-Smurf life. “You don’t think that’s important enough for us to trying smurfing it?”
“It is the Psychelian way to consider the lives of higher intelligent beings to be more important of such care than that of less intelligent creatures such as these birds, fellow Tracker,” Empath declared, not budging from his stance one bit.
“Look, you may be smurfed as a Psyche, but you’re not a Psyche, and neither am I,” Tracker countered, also not budging from his own stance. “You want to smurf like a Psyche, then maybe you should smurf back to Psychelia right now. But this creature is part of our forest, and right now it needs our help to smurf back on its feet. So are you going to help me smurf it back home to our village or not?”
Empath sighed, realizing that this argument over whether to take the bird back to the village or just simply abandon it was getting them nowhere. “Then this smurf will help you, even though it is against this smurf’s better judgment of the situation.”
The two of them carried the bird back to the village, where they informed Papa Smurf about the situation.
“Get all the Smurfs you can to help you smurf care of our winged patient, Tracker,” Papa Smurf instructed. “If there’s a chance we can smurf this bird back to health, we might as well smurf it while there’s still time. And if Empath can smurf anything with his abilities to help, then let him smurf what he can.”
“Yes, sir, Papa Smurf,” Tracker affirmed, eager to do his job, though not comfortable wanting to tell Papa Smurf about Empath’s earlier refusal to help.
Over the next few days, Empath saw Tracker and his fellow Smurfs do their best to restore the bird’s ailing health. They built a nest for the bird where it could rest comfortably, fed the bird worms, gave it various medicines that Papa Smurf prescribed, and basically gave the bird as much company and care as it needed. However, Empath still felt as if all this attention given to this bird would prove to be a waste than a help. Nonetheless, he watched as if his fellow Smurfs would prove him wrong, that all this care would bring the bird back to health.
By the fourth day, unfortunately, Tracker went to check up on his patient and found out that the bird had died. Empath briefly scanned the bird with his minds-eye and noticed that the bird’s condition was too far gone for any Smurf to have done anything to reverse it. The other Smurfs who heard about this sad news weren’t happy about it, either. They gave the bird a decent burial out in the forest, asking Mother Nature to give the bird comfort and peace in its resting place.
Empath felt so upset that he went straight to Papa Smurf’s laboratory. His half-brother Brainy was there at the door watching for whoever would come that way. "This smurf needs to talk to Papa Smurf!" he declared.
"You can't talk to him right now, Empath!" Brainy warned him. "Papa Smurf specifically instructed me to tell any Smurf that he is not to be disturbed today…and that includes you of all Smurfs!"
But Empath was determined. "He will talk to this smurf, whether or not he feels like it!" he said adamantly to Brainy. He pushed past Brainy and opened the door.
Even Papa Smurf was taken aback by Empath's sudden burst of rudeness when he simply walked into his laboratory without even knocking. "This smurf wishes to talk to you, Papa Smurf!" he demanded.
"Empath, I told Brainy to tell every Smurf that I do not want to be dissmurfed today," Papa Smurf scolded. "That rule also applies to you!"
"This smurf will not leave until this smurf knows why you would have all the other Smurfs willfully waste our resources to attempt saving a dying animal that has died despite our efforts," Empath insisted. "That was a very inefficient use of our resources!"
"Empath," Papa Smurf answered, trying to control his temper, "saving lives, or at least trying to save them, isn't a matter of efficiency. It's all a matter of being a Smurf. We can't just decide who lives and who dies – we must try to protect those lives, even if we fail in our efforts. If a single Smurf decides that a single life isn't worth saving – or if he decides to take a life – he would be no better than the worst animals out in the forest."
"It is a difficult idea to grasp, Papa Smurf," Empath muttered, "an idea that conflicts with the ideas of the Psyche Master that empowers us to decide who should be saved."
"It is never up to us to make those decisions, Empath," Papa Smurf replied, "but since I know very little of how the Psyches live, I want you to make a promise to me right now."
"What do you wish this smurf to promise, Papa Smurf?" Empath asked.
"It is not an easy promise to uphold, Empath," Papa Smurf explained, "but I want you to promise me that when the time comes when you are forced to smurf a life, for whatever reason, you will choose not to. I'm asking you this because your innocence as a Smurf is at stake here and I do not wish to lose you."
Empath never felt such concern for his well-being from Papa Smurf before he made a request like that. It made Empath think about his training as a Psyche and his being a Smurf at the same time, and both thoughts influenced his decision.
"This smurf will uphold the promise, Papa Smurf," Empath replied, "from now until this smurf's own passing."
Since that time, Empath kept that promise faithfully even through the increasingly rigorous training exercises that the Psyche Master’s instructors put him and his fellow Psyche students through as he got older. Or so he thought.
“Empath Psyche, designation 1137-K, you are required to complete the training,” the voice of Polluxis spoke, breaking the tranquility of Empath’s meditation.
Empath opened his eyes and again saw Polluxis standing before him, still looking the same as he did when he confronted him – or rather, the phantom that was him – out in the open, where most of the other Smurfs only saw him confronting Vanity unaware.
“The training is complete, Polluxis,” Empath said, tired of having to confront this haunting image of the Psyche who was killed in the exercise. “What more is there for this one to do now that this one has defeated you and terminated your life?”
“Only that you confess to yourself and to your people that you have not lived faithfully as one of them,” Polluxis answered in the same emotionless tone he spoke to Empath earlier with. “You have made a promise to its leader that you will not take a life even when it is necessary for you to do so, but you have failed. And they will know for certain that you have failed if you continue to hide this truth from either yourself or from them.”
“There wasn’t any choice for this one,” Empath tried to reason. “It was either that this one died at your hands or that you have died at this one’s hands. This one has spared your life several times, but neither of us could leave until one of us fell.”
“You could and should have died with the beliefs of your people,” Polluxis responded. “That would have been more acceptable than breaking your promise and endangering yourself in order to prove yourself as a true Psyche.”
“If this one had died, then the Psyche Master would not have been able to deliver on the promise of releasing this one to Papa Smurf when I was 150 years of age,” Empath stated. “And Papa Smurf would have been burdened with the loss of losing this one to the Psyche Master…something he didn’t want to go through again when he left this one in Psychelia in the first place.”
“But he now faces the potential burden of losing you now, all because of what you did in Psychelia that you do not wish for any of your people to know,” Polluxis said, sounding like he wanted Empath to really consider what he was doing. “He has to know the truth of what you did to his promise, and neither you nor this one will have any peace until you finally bring the truth to light. Despite what you might have to face as a consequence, you must let them know what you did to this one.”
Then the image of Polluxis vanished, leaving Empath alone in his solitude. It seemed as if his phantom was going to leave him alone for a while, at least long enough for Empath to make a decision as to what he was going to do. The one thing he knew for sure was that this was one fault he committed that he couldn’t just bury in the ground and hope nobody will dig out and uncover.
He reached out for the empty scroll that Printer had given to him and started writing on it.
By nightfall, Papa Smurf was seeing the Smurflings going off to sleep, with the four of them being uncomfortable of having to go to bed without anything to eat.
"I wonder if we could have Biscotti smurf us a big pizza party for the day after Redemption Day, since I feel so hungry for smurfing a whole pizza pie," Snappy said as he got into bed.
"Yeah, Papa Smurf, can we smurf a big pizza party?" Nat asked.
"You can smurf whatever it is you want for the day after Redemption Day, my little Smurflings," Papa Smurf said. "For right now, try not to think so much about food while you are sleeping."
"That's going to be a real challenge," Slouchy said as he laid back in his bed. "I'm already imagining myself with the biggest smurf cream sundae with lots of smurfberries and chocolate sauce and whipped smurf."
"Pappy Smurf, what is wrong with Empath?" Sassette asked, sounding a bit sad. "Why did he smurf up on Vanity like that?"
"I'm afraid that I don't know, Sassette," Papa Smurf answered. "It's something that we're going to find out tomorrow when every Smurf confesses their faults."
"Do you think he smurfed something terrible when he was away in Psychelia, Pappy Smurf?" Sassette asked. "Because if he did, I don't want to see him smurf away for it."
"I don't want to see Empath smurf away either, but I'm afraid that's something only the Pool of Souls can judge him for," Papa Smurf said. "Now I want you to rest and not think about what's going to happen on Redemption Day, okay, my little Sassette?"
"Okay, Pappy Smurf," Sassette replied, giving Papa Smurf a hug. "I'll smurf you again in the morning. I love you."
"And I love you too, Sassette," Papa Smurf said as he received the hug. He said goodnight to all the Smurflings before he left their playhouse and they went to sleep.
That night, while the other Smurfs were busy sleeping, trying to keep the nervousness of going through the Redemption Day ceremony under check, Tapper heard a knock on the door of his tavern. He went downstairs from his sleeping quarters to answer the door. It was Smurfette, looking like she couldn’t sleep.
“Great Smurfiny Crickets, my dear Smurfette, what thing is it that’s smurfing you up on the evening before Redemption Day?” Tapper asked, curious. He let Smurfette enter, taking her to a table by the window where he sat with her with a single candle for illumination.
“I’ve been thinking about Empath, Tapper,” Smurfette answered. “He was trying to smurf me something about this Polluxis in Psychelia that he smurfs so guilty about watching him die, as if he should have smurfed more to keep him from dying on him during some kind of smurfing exercise. I’ve never smurfed Empath being so haunted by something that smurfened in his past while he was away from here.”
“Aye, this Polluxis has smurftainly been on Empath’s mind more than he wants to admit it, Smurfette,” Tapper said. “During the day, Empath had been seen smurfing on Vanity as if he was actually ensmurfing this Polluxis in the village, though nobody else could smurf him. It took having to smurf one of Jokey’s surprises on Empath to smurf him back to his senses and see what’s really smurfing on.”
“Oh, dear,” Smurfette gasped, feeling her heart going out to him. “I hope Vanity’s all right.”
“Vanity could’ve smurfed worse than he is right now, Smurfette,” Tapper consoled. “But whatever Empath’s smurfing through with this Polluxis he keeps smurfing on about, I don’t think he will smurf easy until tomorrow when he confesses the faults that he has smurfed over the past ten years. Yet I have a feeling we’re not smurfing to like the very thing Empath will have to confess, even if it has to smurf with Polluxis.”
“However bad this thing that Empath has smurfed with Polluxis, I just want Empath to know that I won’t judge him for it,” Smurfette declared.
“Neither should any Smurf judge another Smurf for their faults, no matter how grievous they are, Smurfette,” Tapper seconded, holding Smurfette’s hand to comfort her. “If it weren’t for the grace of the Almighty, there could smurf anyone among us.”