Heya all! Orpheus here!

So, this story is kind of weird. It's technically both a story and a challenge all at once. I haven't really done this sort of thing before, but let's see how it goes!

Let me explain a little bit. Earlier this week, on my Discord server, I asked some people what they thought about the concept of a group challenge, a vague-ish sort of prompt that many people take on at the same time to see how they go about it differently. They were interested, and helped me create this prompt. Then a few others joined and now we've got eight challengers (including myself) on board. Oh! If any readers want to try it out as well, just send me a PM and I'd be more than happy to add you to the list.

As for the challenge itself… it's actually pretty simple. Using any one or more characters from Naruto, from any point in the timeline, as they are on the crossroads of life and death, Hekate shows up to offer a third path: reincarnation. They retain all memories of their previous life, but if you let them keep chakra they cannot use both chakra and divine authority (demigod powers) at the same time.

Without further ado, I'll begin!

Prologue: A Third Road

"What the… where are we?" The voice was genuinely confused as its ponderings cut through the atmosphere of silence. It belonged to a boy who looked to have hit his teens very recently, with a head of spiked hair sticking out every which way and a pair of deep, blue eyes that shone bright, though seemed to hide something just behind the surface that was hard to read. "Wait, what happened to my clothes?" While the boy wasn't naked, what he wore did not match what he had been donning even just moments before. He was adorned in a black cloak wrapped around his body and hiding other black clothing beneath it.

"It seems to be some sort of crossroads." A second boy assessed. He seemed much calmer, cooler, more collected. A head of red hair, a pair of light teal eyes surrounded by black markings and the same outfit as the first boy made up his appearance. "Though it is rather strange. We were in that forest just now. Is this some sort of genjutsu?"

"Yosh! Whatever it is, it is most unyouthful!" A final boy spoke from the top of his lungs as he searched for anything that could help them identify what had happened. He had a bowl cut of straight, black hair and a pair of matching eyes. "Unfortunately, I do not see anything that could be of help, Naruto-kun and Gaara-kun!"

"Do not stress yourself Lee." The boy known as Gaara replied, though he was also looking around. The space they occupied was surrounding by what seemed to be infinite darkness, aside from a rather large statue that lay near the crossroads of three roads: one was dirt, one was paved with concrete and the final was paved with cobblestone. "I don't recall ever hearing of a genjutsu like this. On top of that, I don't take that Kaguya boy as the genjutsu type."

"My, my, how amusing. I do apologize for my tardiness, I had thought I would arrive a tad sooner, but that boy really did a number on the three of you quicker than I anticipated." A female voice chimed in from all direction, causing all three boys to jump. Soon, three figures materialized themselves along the three roads that the boys could see. They spoke in perfect sync. They also all wore an all black dress that reached their ankles, and had matching black hair and green eyes. The biggest difference between them was their age, however. A young girl stood on the dirt road, a young woman either in her late teens or early twenties stood on the concrete one and a crone, who seemed ready to die very soon, stood upon the cobblestone one.

"Who are you three?" Naruto wondered as he tried to keep his eyes on all three, but ultimately couldn't. He ended up eying the child, Gaara kept watch on the woman and Lee observed the crone. There was a soft laugh that came from all three at once.

"We are Hekate." They replied. "Accept our apologies for not introducing ourselves. You do not need to offer one in kind, as we are very familiar with all of you. Still, surely you are confused as to what happened and where you currently are? To make it easy… the road down there, made of concrete, is the way to the Land of the Living. The cobblestone path leads towards the afterlife. In your situation, there would usually only be two routes and the cobblestone would be illuminated. It is not so in this case, however, as I decided it could be entertaining to intervene."

"What do you mean in our situation?" Gaara wondered for a moment before asking what both Lee and Naruto thought in that moment, but were not quick enough to ask first. "Are you implying that we're dead? That can't be so." Hekate smiled sadly before nodding. "How is that even possible?"

"That boy, Kimimaro, killed the three of you by going Curse Mark Level Two far before he was supposed to. We won't go too much into detail, but it didn't end well. He probably won't survive long, if that's any consolation. He had a disease that is tearing him apart inside, and probably won't even make it to see the moon. Such a shame, considering it should be a beautiful crescent tonight. That is off-track however. You cannot go back down the concrete route. It is blocked to you, and you would only remain as spirits, unable to meaningfully interact with any other person or being for all of time.

"If you would rather go down the cobblestone path, it will lead you to the afterlife. Perhaps you will be reincarnated once again. Perhaps you will make it into the Pure World, as the people call it here. Maybe you will suffer in Makai for a time. Even I am uncertain what would happen if you chose that one. However, I can be certain of one of these trails." The child stepped aside, revealing the dirt pathway. "If you travel down this one, then I will use my power to reincarnate you into a world where you will not have to suffer the abuse of those who would mistreat you for something out of your control. You will lose your chakra, but I can promise you will receive something better… something stronger. The very Blood of Gods will be yours, and all the power that comes with it. No more demons sealed inside of you. No more inability to do what others can. No more hatred from those you would protect. Everything you wanted from this world, I can give you in another."

"Something like that can't be so easy." Gaara responded as he saw the hope in Naruto and Lee's eyes, trying to quash it before they ran off. Truthfully, he wanted to believe, but he wouldn't allow himself. "If you speak the truth, and we are all dead, and we can go down any of the paths, why would you offer us something so valuable? What do you get in return?"

Hekate smiled and tapped her chin before responding. "Perhaps I'll get nothing. Perhaps I'll get everything. Maybe I just want to give my world a shake-up and maybe I'm looking to change everything. In the world I'm from, I am a goddess. I am, specifically, the goddess of magic, of the night, of paths and entryways, of crossroads, of protection, of things that come in threes, of dogs and of a dozen other domains that would take too long to list out for you. My family, the other gods, they have become lazy, they've become stagnant and they can't possibly be able to react if something major happens. I suppose, you'll provide the shock that they need, won't you? After all, you three are the most dynamizing members of your generation, from what I could tell. In exchange for simply doing as you want, I'll give you a chance at life where you won't suffer the abuse of others, I'll let you keep your memories and I'll even ensure that you are all born in the same country. You'll have to make your way to Camp Half-Blood on your own to meet up, but I'll even help you to do that. As far as you're concerned, I'll make the three of you family from the moment you are dropped off there, and then you'll be able to do with your powers what you wish, and protect who you wish. What do you say?"

Gaara felt himself losing the will to resist as she spoke, and looked at the other two before sighing, causing them to grin. "Certainty in a few variables is better than uncertainty in all of them. We will accept your offer, Hekate." With that, the child gestured towards the dirt path, staying behind as the trio began to walk down it. Gaara just hoped they had made the right choice.

There wasn't really any turning back at this point though. After going about fifteen steps, the crossroads disappeared. Another ten, and the trio began to fade from the place that Hekate had created specifically to send them off. The goddess was no longer three entities, but had rejoined herself into her normal form. Three faces looked in three different directions, though attached to the same head. Two arms became six, with two of them carrying lit torches made of some sort of black, metallic material. She still wore the same dress though.

"Things certainly will be interesting in the coming years, I think." She said, more to her self than anything else. There was no one else to talk to in the space between spaces. It was her domain, her creation, her home. Without her permission, none - not even Zeus, not even Kronos, not even Gaia herself - could enter. Even if they could, she held all power in this place. It was free of all of the Ancient Laws. Zeus thought himself the first to make such decrees, but he had made all of the laws that Ouranus and that Kronos had. He hadn't done anything special, not really.

She knew how to circumvent all of those laws, however. Being a minor goddess had its perks after all. She was often overlooked and forgotten, and that worked fine for her. Zeus likely wouldn't even note anything odd. If Hades figured something out, Persephone would distract him long enough for her to get ahold of something to convince him. This was her game, after all. Still, the brothers never got along, so chances are he would keep it to himself anyways, just to spite the youngest.

"We can't interfere with the mortals of our world, just as the King of Olympus Mons decreed. However, there's nothing said about the mortals of another world. It's time to destabilize things a little and shake the mountain. Tartarus is stirring and I don't like it. Those three will need to set things up so that my family is prepared." One of her free sets of arms crossed as the frontal face of Hekate's frowned. "Hm… still, I suppose its never bad to overprepare. I wonder if there's anything I can do to make sure they get things done the right way?" Hekate could only smile as thoughts and plans ran through her head. "Well, for now, it's best to let the game play itself out. You can't judge the outcome of a match when it hasn't even been revealed who's playing yet, after all."

And that's it!

So, what did you guys think? Feel free to let me know in a review, via PM or hop on over to the Discord server at Discord - dot - gg - slash - PWDD44v!

Orpheus out! Ja ne!