Disclaimer: Had I created Naruto, the world would have been deprived of various filler arcs.

Wipe the blood from your nose. Stand up. You'll be able to see out of both eyes soon enough.

You're not a pessimist. People think you're naïve, but naivety has never really been an option on offer to you. You throw yourself into something stronger, fiercer, hotter than hope. Do or die. You can't stand still; you can't go back, there's nothing there to go back to. Forward momentum. You are the wildfire, you take no prisoners. Being realistic means making concessions. Making concessions means you're dead.

You fight, and it could be the world, it could be your schoolmates, it could be yourself – it doesn't matter. Can't stop fighting. Stop and you lose momentum, you have to keep moving or you'll sink into the mire. When you're swimming against the current you can't let up even for a moment or it will sweep you back away again. You will dash yourself against the rocks if you have to. Laughter is easy, sneers are easy, you can live with it. You can live with the unspoken questions in their eyes, the questions that itch beneath your skin, why do you even bother? Why are you even here?

You think their logic is faulty. You think their definitions could use some work.

Every time you get up after a fight, you've won. They think you're stupid, that you go into fights thinking it could possibly end in your favour – they're wrong. You know you don't have a hope in hell of defeating the other person. But you can win.

Winning means fighting back even when it will only get you more pain – especially when it will only get you more pain. Winning is biting and kicking and scratching, winning is hurling shouted insults, never shutting up, never forfeiting. Winning means never doing what they want you to do. Every time you fight back, every time you won't be silenced, every time you don't give them even an inch of ground – that's one more time they haven't erased you yet. That's one more time they can't change you, they can't get rid of you.

That's one more time that you're still here.

Giving up has never been on the table; giving up has never been in the cards. You pick yourself up on autopilot as the bruises start to fade, and feel the reset taking effect. For you there is no such thing as surrender. There is a reason for this, old and unconscious on a level below thought, written into your bones and your blood. It doesn't lend itself to words.

You know love doesn't have to mean trust. Otherwise you'd have to live without love, and that's not an option. So you care, you care, about the Hokage, about Iruka-sensei and Teuchi and Ayame, but it would just be stupid to trust them, you learned early on that everyone will hurt you if they have to. The only person you can rely on is yourself, the only person you can trust is yourself. So you can't betray yourself, or there'd be no-one left.

So you throw yourself into fights, brawling, all frenzied energy and no discipline. You take pride and even pleasure in the feeling of blows connecting – and it doesn't matter who they're connecting with. It doesn't much matter if you're the one with the bruises or if they are. The point is you can walk away at the end and you know you've won, no matter what they think the outcome was. You know you're still here.

You pit yourself against the entire world and throw it a feral grin. If the world has always been against you then fuck the world. Go up against it. Never ever do what people expect. If they give you the label of village pariah, then go for the title of Hokage. Never take an order from anyone, even a teacher, it's not like teachers aren't a part of it too. It makes you unpredictable. (It makes you a pain in the ass: unsurprisingly, you're okay with that.)

You laugh even as you're running for your life with ten chuunin on your tail, because a prank is a battle won, a prank is a victory they can't take away from you. You're pranking the whole village just by staying alive. You're so full of rage, and you won't ever turn it on anyone else, not the way they turned it on you, so instead you paint your name on the village, look at me, you fuckers, I'm alive and just try and catch me, I'll run circles around you and laugh, I'll never go down without a fight.

You will never let them work their will on you. You're not dead yet, and you're staying that way.

Your name is Uzumaki Naruto, and you are alive.