Part 4

"That's sad, Empath, but at least your fellow Smurfs and Papa Smurf were still thinking of you being out there in the cold that holiday season," Smurfette said.
"This smurf appreciated that they were thinking of this smurf, Smurfette, even as incapacitated as this smurf was at the time," Empath said. "Fortunately, Wild was a very good caretaker during that time, and we came to be very good friends in the process. He was curious because he had never seen a Smurf before during his time of solitude out in the forest."
"But you were afraid of being around a naked Smurf, even alone as you were with him in the state you were in," Smurfette said.
"You are correct, Smurfette," Empath said. "It was terrifying for this smurf to have to be exposed to somebody who had no qualms about exposing himself due to the fact that he didn't even understand the importance of clothing. But this smurf became used to his appearance over time."
And as Empath's story continued, Smurfette saw that Empath had woken up from his sleep in the morning, being forced to drink a liquid that had an awful taste to it, but sensed it had properties in it that could nourish him and heal him of his injuries. Empath acquiesced to the desire of his caretaker to drink whatever he was feeding him, in the hope that it would give him the strength to recover.
Empath sighed in relief when he was finished. He looked at the naked Smurf, who just looked at Empath as if he were pleased to see his patient respond to the treatment that was given.
"This smurf appreciates your efforts," Empath said. "This smurf has sensed that you have lived here all by yourself for years, with only squirrels to keep your company. This smurf can only wonder why you don't live with the other Smurfs in the village."
The naked Smurf looked at Empath curiously, as if trying to understand what he was saying.
"Apparently you are not able to fully understand anything this smurf is even able to tell you," Empath said. "Please come a little bit closer."
The naked Smurf came closer to Empath. With as much strength as he can muster, Empath tried to move his left hand to reach out to the naked Smurf and touched his hand, holding it as firm as he could. The naked Smurf then felt something coursing through his arm to his brain at the moment Empath touched him.
"Now you should be able to understand what this smurf is saying," Empath said. "What is your name? Do you have a name that this smurf should call you?"
The naked Smurf spoke again, but Empath could still hear nothing but squirrel chatter coming from that Smurf's mouth.
"That was probably not the best question this smurf should ask," Empath realized. "This smurf senses that you don't even have a name, so it would be best for this smurf to give you one. How about...Wild? Can you say Wild?"
"Wiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiild?" the naked Smurf said very slowly.
"That's a good first effort for you to speak," Empath said. "Your name is Wild Smurf. This smurf's name is Empath Smurf."
"Emmmmmmmpaaaaaaath Smuuuuuuuuurf," Wild said very slowly.
"That's very good," Empath said. "Do you know where we are? Like where in the forest we happen to be at this point?"
"Empath...is...with...Wild," Wild responded.
"This smurf knows who he's with, but where exactly are we?" Empath asked. "Are we inside a tree or something?"
"In...side...a...tree?" Wild responded, curious to know what that meant.
"This structure would seem to be composed of material that can only be found in a tree, Wild, so this smurf would suggest that we're inside a tree," Empath said.
"Empath...and...Wild...is...inside...a...tree," Wild said.
"This smurf is certain that you will understand how to speak in a fluent clear language in time, Wild," Empath said. "But now this smurf must rest."
"Empath...must...rest," Wild said, seeming to understand.

Back in the Smurf Village, Papa Smurf had the Smurfs set up the Solstice tree in the center of the village and put ornaments upon it to make it festive for the season. Despite the circumstance they were facing, Papa Smurf was hoping that they would still have a joyous Winter Solstice nonetheless.
After the work on the tree was finished, Papa Smurf stood by his little Smurfs to admire the wondrous sight of the tree with all its decorations. "Good job, my little Smurfs," Papa Smurf said, sounding pleased.
"If only M'sieu Empath was here to smurf it up with us, Grand Schtroumpf," Painter said.
"Tis such a moment to frustrate that he wasn't here to decorate," Poet said, seconding the emotion.
"I hate decorations," Grouchy said.
"I'm sure he would have wanted to be here for that moment, my little Smurfs," Papa Smurf said. "Nonetheless, it will be smurfed here in his memory to make sure we are thinking of him."
"You don't think we will ever smurf him again, do you, Papa Smurf?" Clumsy asked.
"Of course we will smurf him again, Clumsy," Brainy said. "He's Papa Smurf. He's not going to give up on Empath, even when it smurfs to be impossible."
"But what if he never returns? What will we do?" Clumsy asked.
"Don't ever think that, laddie," Duncan said. "Empath's out there, I can feel it in my smurfs. Somehow he will still return to us safe and smurf."
"We should try to hope for the best, my little Smurfs," Papa Smurf said. "As long as we faith, it is certain that Empath will return sooner or later."
Just then, Greedy came out of the kitchen carrying a tray of fresh-baked goodies. "Okay, who wants gingersmurf cookies, smurfed straight from the oven?" he called out.
Papa Smurf watched as his little Smurfs gathered around Greedy to take as many gingersmurf cookies as they could before they were all gone. He sighed, wishing he could feel as confident as he was speaking to his little Smurfs about Empath's return.

Throughout the day, as Empath drifted in and out of consciousness and Wild was taking care of him through what little means he knew how, Wild was picking up how to speak words very slowly from Empath teaching him very basic language skills. Wild began to understand things that he never thought of before and was curious of everything he was being told.
"What that thing upon your head?" Wild asked.
"The thing is this smurf's hat, Wild," Empath answered. "It is what all Smurfs wear because their heads are bald like yours."
"May this one try hat upon my head?" Wild asked.
Empath nodded, and Wild carefully lifted Empath's hat from his head and then placed it upon his own head.
"Does this one look like a Smurf?" Wild asked.
Empath looked at Wild and nodded. "You indeed look like a Smurf."
Wild took the hat off and placed it back on Empath's head. "Maybe this one try making hat for this one," Wild said.
"You may try to create yourself a hat, but this smurf doesn't see what you will make it from," Empath said.
Wild looked as if he was trying to think. Then it came to him. "This one know how to make hat now."
Empath watched as Wild scrambled deep into the hole in the tree and then came back with a pile of dry leaves. He then took some sap from the tree's wood and then carefully crafted himself a rudimentary version of a Smurf hat with the leaves and the sap. After letting it dry and harden, Wild placed the makeshift hat upon his head. "See, now this one also has hat!"
Empath nodded with acceptance. "This smurf believes that that hat looks very appropriate on you, Wild."

Near the end of the day, Papa Smurf waited until Tracker arrived on the back of a crane for any news he may have regarding Empath's whereabouts. "Any luck?" Papa Smurf asked.
"Still nothing, Papa Smurf," Tracker said. "Wherever he is, he may be smurfering down and smurfing low until the weather is warmer."
Papa Smurf sighed. "You smurfed your best, Tracker. Go and join your fellow Smurfs for supper. I will smurf care of things here."
"Yes, Papa Smurf," Tracker said, saluting before heading off toward the dining hall.
Brainy, Hefty, and Handy joined Papa Smurf at that moment. "Still no word about where Empath may be about now, Papa Smurf?" Handy asked.
"Unfortunately no, my little Smurfs," Papa Smurf said. "We should smurf ourselves some food and rest before the new day smurfs and we smurf our search anew."
"A lot of good that will smurf us, if we can't even find where the star-face may be at this moment," Hefty said.
"I believe Papa Smurf doesn't want us to give up hope yet, Hefty," Brainy said. "If there's a chance that we may find him, then it's very likely to happen."
"It's going to smurf a god-sized miracle in order for that to happen, Brainy," Handy said.
"Well, I don't believe in miracles, Handy," Hefty said. "Either it's going to happen or it doesn't, and I'm fine with that."
"Let's smurf ourselves back to the table and finish our dinner," Brainy said. "Our minds will smurf a whole lot better when we are well-nourished."
"Just make sure you save the fruitcake for me," Hefty said as the three of them headed back to the kitchen, leaving Papa Smurf to lead the crane back to the stables.

Out in the forest where Empath and Wild were staying, as they were preparing themselves for sleep, Wild was full of questions on his mind.
"What are the Smurfs like?" Wild asked.
"The Smurfs are people like you and this smurf, Wild," Empath answered. "They live together in a hidden village in the forest with houses that are shaped like mushrooms."
"Do they dress like this one?" Wild asked.
"They tend to wear only hats and pants...at least most of them do," Empath answered. "This smurf wears this bodysuit because this smurf currently lives among the Psyches in Psychelia."
"What is Psychelia?" Wild asked.
"It is a village that is much different from that of the Smurfs, with people that have similar appearances to Smurfs, except that their flesh is pale, and they also don't express emotions," Empath answered.
"But you are a Smurf," Wild said. "So why do you live among them?"
"This smurf lives among them because this smurf was brought to Psychelia as an infant to be raised among them, as far as this smurf can ascertain," Empath said. "This smurf has been used to the way that the Psyches live up until the time Papa Smurf took this smurf from there to live with the Smurfs for a year."
"Then you must return there when your year is over, and then what happens?" Wild asked.
Empath sighed. "This smurf honestly doesn't know, Wild. It may be that this smurf will no longer remember anything that this smurf has learned among the Smurfs when this smurf returns to the Psyches."
"But you can stay here with me," Wild said.
"As much as this smurf would want to stay with you, this smurf must return to be with the other Smurfs, and then return to Psychelia," Empath said.
Wild sighed. "Then I will miss you if you ever go away."
"We will deal with that together when the time comes, Wild," Empath said. "Right now, we should sleep and allow this smurf time to heal."
Wild nodded. "I will take care of you until you are healed."