Matryoshka Off-Limits Chapter 2

Chapter 2 Night of the Ancient Castle

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When Wen Shi made this remark, he intentionally didn’t lower his voice.

The three players fell silent one after another, realizing that his composure might not be due to strong mental toughness, but rather some mental issues.

This idea was not limited to them. Most of the people who had interacted with Wen Shi shared similar opinions: strange temperament, not sociable, and even his sense of humor was different from others.

Wen Shi didn’t have time to notice their expressions as the cold prompt tone hadn’t ended yet.

“A warm reminder: The fewer players in the instance, the easier the game becomes.”

“Please note that the game prohibits players from brutally killing each other.”

“Also note that players cannot commit murder in the instance. Please accurately distinguish all existing identities.”

On initial observation, the first two rules may seem contradictory, and the second and third rules appear to be repetitive. However, upon closer reflection, the first rule stood as a steadfast principle, lending more depth and meaning to the latter two rules.

“How do you like this dinner?” The castle master spoke again, interrupting Wen Shi’s thoughts.

With a gloomy face attempting to look hospitable, he resembled a monster crawling out of hell.

Only a few people sat at the long table, but the empty seats were filled with plates and food. Roast chicken, foie gras, red wine… The various aromas mingled, creating a ravenous illusion.

Except for Wen Shi, who had just arrived, the players looked quite miserable with wrinkled clothes and almost everyone carrying injuries.

Saying good things was never wrong, so Wen Shi hardly hesitated as he replied, “Every dish is impeccable. I can’t even describe their beauty. Experiencing these meals, I realize what I used to eat was simply rubbish.”

Once again, Wen Shi stressed with warmth, “They are like perfect artworks. I absolutely couldn’t bear to destroy them.”

The preceding statements were redundant. The final sentence held the crucial message.

Who knew if there was poison in the food? In uncertain circumstances, he’d rather go hungry than touch the cutlery on the table.

His exaggerated words earned glances from the other three players at the table.

After the castle master’s initial daze, he seemed deeply pleased by Wen Shi’s words. “You’re right. I am someone who pursues perfection. The most perfect food, the most perfect artworks, and, of course, the most perfect bride.”

His gaze held profound infatuation.

In contrast, the players’ faces didn’t look good, especially Exiu. He had shadows over the term “most perfect bride.”

As the designated person to find the bride, Exiu still had no clue about the task.

The castle master’s smile held a mix of amusement and murderous intent, both emotions converging in the tall glass. With a flick of his wrist, he rose from his seat, gently swaying the mysterious red liquid in the cup as if to propose a toast.

Exiu’s lips moved, quickly mouthing something to the other two players. He kept his head slightly lowered, as if muttering to himself. Wen Shi didn’t understand lip-reading, but he noticed that when the other players clinked glasses, they intentionally showed humility to the castle master. Mimicking them, Wen Shi also made a humble gesture while toasting.

Under the castle master’s watchful gaze, seeing everyone else drink, Wen Shi took a sip too.

It wasn’t the taste of red wine. There was a faint odor of fishy scent, but not like the smell of blood. Catching sight of the sly smile at the corner of the slender man’s mouth, an ominous premonition rose inside him.

After downing a glass of wine, the castle master elegantly cut into a medium-rare steak. He ate quickly, wiped his mouth afterward, and left some steak bloodstains on the silk handkerchief.

With the meal finished, the castle master looked at Wen Shi again and said, “It’s too late now. Stay here for the night.”

Wen Shi gazed at his departing figure and asked boldly, “Which room?”

It was already late in the day, and going out meant certain death, so he had no choice but to stay here.

The castle master half-turned, his cheek appearing eerie in the dim corridor. “You can stay on the second floor. Feel free to choose.”

As he left, the pressure in the dining hall lessened considerably.

The slender man introduced himself first, “Hello, I’m Exiu.”

【Edwin. Your old friend. Half a month ago, after a gathering, you visited an art gallery together. There, you coincidentally met the castle master.】

When the prompt sound came out, Wen Shi hesitated for a moment, quickly realizing that these were player-assigned character identities. Apparently, Exiu wasn’t intending to take the game roles seriously.

He couldn’t act alone.

Wen Shi also gave up on role-playing and introduced himself, “Pei Wenwei.”

“You must have many questions. I can answer them for you.” Exiu’s mood seemed to improve, and his tolerance returned.

He knew as a newbie, there would be various questions.

Where is this place? How do we leave? Why were we pulled in, and so on.

Wen Shi asked, “Was that glass of wine undrinkable?”

This one sentence was like a heavy bomb. Exiu momentarily lost control of his expression, briefly revealing the answer.

Seeing this, Wen Shi pressed his lips together. He was certain that the others had drunk the wine, but maybe they had a way to deal with it. It wouldn’t be the same for him.

“Thanks for the answer.” Wen Shi took the initiative to end the topic.

He didn’t continue questioning further. Who knew if the other person might mislead him on crucial matters.

Exiu glanced deeply at him and left the dining hall.

The other two players also stood up one after another. Earlier, Exiu had promised to trade items and points with them if they cooperated in getting the newbie to drink. Now it was time for him to fulfill his promise.

Before leaving, the female player spoke, “The castle master is seeking the most perfect bride. If he can’t find one, he will kill the designated seeker. However, if there’s a funeral, his bride selection plan will be delayed for a day.”

【Ann. Your old friend. Half a month ago, after a gathering, you visited an art gallery together. There, you coincidentally met the castle master.】

Wen Shi’s eyebrows slightly furrowed.

He didn’t believe the other person’s intentions were good. If they were truly concerned, they wouldn’t have collaborated with Exiu’s plan. She seemed to be intentionally provoking Exiu’s grudge and provoking him to seek a joint demise with Exiu.

The game prohibited killing players. In other words, they were hoping for him to die faster.

In the blink of an eye, the dining hall was empty, and the surroundings were quiet. Wen Shi lightly rubbed the table with his fingertip.


Start a business.

Do one good deed each day.

Before turning twenty-three, make at least one friend.

These were the promises he made to someone. Whenever Wen Shi felt irritated, his mind would repeat the commitments he needed to abide by.

He initially thought the latter two tasks would be the most troublesome, but now he needed to exert effort to achieve the first one.

The way that person named Exiu looked at him before leaving was like looking at a dead person. Wen Shi already had a premonition that drinking that glass of wine would bring significant trouble.

He calmed down and started thinking about strategies to block all escape routes. Without any possibility of survival, the game would lose its significance. There must be a way to handle the upcoming crisis.

At this moment, the prompt sound rang again:

【New Player Skill Task Activated:

Optional Task One: Sit alone in the dining hall at midnight and drink a glass of red wine (You’ve already had one, so why not have another?)

Optional Task Two: Sleep (Close your eyes when it’s dark and make sure to sleep for a full twelve hours.)

Completing either task will activate the advanced skill (After this session ends, any damage received during the session will automatically heal.)】

【Your 2B Luck Value has come into play. Do you want to upgrade the regular skill task to an advanced skill task?】

Wen Shi tightly pressed his lips. First, mentioning that injuries would heal within the session, then asking if he wanted to upgrade the task difficulty. It felt like a deliberate reassuring tactic, trying to persuade him to choose the upgrade.

Everything in the game was ambiguous, like the prohibition against killing players but mentioning the benefits of eliminating each other. Similar to now, the premise for healing injuries was the end of the session. What exactly constituted an end? Was it only tied to task completion?

“Countdown begins. Ten seconds to default player’s choice of not upgrading the task, ten, nine, eight…”

At the final second, Wen Shi closed his eyes. “Upgrade!”

Fortune favors the bold, and some risks were worth taking even if they seemed dangerous.

“Player chooses to upgrade the task difficulty. Task updating in progress—”

【Advanced Skill Task Activated:

Optional Task One: Sit alone in the dining hall at midnight and finish a bottle (You’ve already had a glass of red wine, so finishing a bottle won’t hurt.)

Optional Task Two: Sleep (As a clean person, maybe it’s time for a bath before enjoying a twelve-hour sleep.)

Completing either task will activate the advanced skill (After this session ends, any damage received during the session will automatically heal.)】

“Task one.” This time, Wen Shi didn’t hesitate.

Sleeping required closing his eyes, and the uncertainty was too high. During an escape, how could he close his eyes? Moreover, taking a bath before sleeping, what if danger arose during that time?

Run without clothes?

“The task of finishing a bottle has been activated for you. Good luck.”

The prompt sound finally stopped. When it spoke in his mind, Wen Shi’s scalp tingled.

The cuckoo clock on the wall showed there were seven minutes until midnight.

Wen Shi sat back down in the dining hall. There was an unopened bottle of red wine on the table. He uncorked the bottle first, then his fingers wrapped around its body. His gaze locked onto the clock on the wall, waiting for the task’s time to arrive.

The chill of the bottle helped him stay calm. His palm covered the bottle entirely, and after a moment, he suddenly brought it close to his nose and sniffed.

Similar to the wine he drank before, this bottle also had a slightly pungent aroma, but even stronger, somewhat like gasoline, yet fresher than gasoline.

Wen Shi felt like he recognized this smell but couldn’t quite place it. The taste of the wine itself subdued most of the strange scent.

The seconds were ticking toward the final round.

Finally, the small wooden door directly above sprang open, and the cuckoo bird popped out. Instead of its usual “cuckoo” call, it emitted a distressing cry as if its throat had been constricted, making the sound especially mournful.

Amidst the piercing scream, Wen Shi began chugging the wine.

The liquid, several times worse than regular red wine, entered his throat.

Wen Shi’s Adam’s apple rolled madly as he quickly downed a third of the bottle. He kept his eyes wide open, vigilant of every corner.

The massive crystal chandelier above the dining table suddenly swayed, and the tassel-like lampshades made rustling sounds. The visibility in the dining hall drastically decreased, the crimson walls dimming to a scarlet hue.

With no other choice in the terrifying atmosphere, Wen Shi desperately drank the remaining portion.

Even drinking a bottle of mineral water quickly would cause discomfort, let alone finishing a bottle of red wine with a strange taste in one go. Forcefully suppressing the urge to vomit, Wen Shi clenched his teeth tightly to prevent himself from spitting it out.

After waiting for half a minute, he didn’t hear any completion notification for the skill task. Meanwhile, the temperature in the dining hall continued to drop. Wen Shi rolled down the sleeves of his T-shirt and muttered in a low voice:

“Damn game.”

He knew it wouldn’t be so easy.

Frost covered the surface of the glass. With a crackling sound, the crystal chandelier stopped working, plunging the dining hall into complete darkness.

Dim light seeped in from the corridor, but the dining hall was too vast for it to have much effect. Wen Shi’s breath hitched when he noticed a dark figure appearing on the opposite side of the dining table.

The outline was blurry, neither human nor beast, floating on the chair in a twisted posture. Cold sweat trickled down Wen Shi’s forehead as he stared straight at the dark figure. Just when his eyes began to feel a bit sore, the shadow on the opposite side suddenly disappeared.

Was it an illusion?

No, he didn’t even blink his eyes and was certain he hadn’t mistaken it.

The windowsill, the chandelier… Wen Shi held his breath and scanned the other corners of the dining hall, relying on the faint light. Nothing was there. Where did that dark figure go?

A chill spread up his ankles. The feeling was like being entwined by a snake.

To be frank, he feared snakes more than ghosts.

Wen Shi slightly stiffened as he lifted the tablecloth, his heart thumping loudly. Lowering his head, he could barely see his own legs. There was nothing wrapping around them.

“Whew—” Wen Shi let out a sigh of relief, but before he could finish exhaling, the chill intensified instead of subsiding.

“Whew—” Almost simultaneously, someone lightly blew a breath against Wen Shi’s slender neck.

The source of the cold air didn’t come from under the table. There was something like a thread poking through his skin.

Wen Shi realized something and calmly gripped the silver spoon on the table, aiming it toward the direction where the light entered from the corridor. He gently turned it.

The convex side of the spoon infinitely magnified the scene behind him: a gaunt woman was standing with her neck tilted, almost burying her head in the hollow of his neck. The proximity was too close, her face kept enlarging through the reflected image on the silver spoon.

Wen Shi silently set down the spoon and paused for a moment before speaking, “My dear, I promised someone that I would make a friend before turning twenty-three.”

The gaunt woman’s skin seemed to peel off like wall paper. She appeared to understand human speech. Before the boiling murderous intent could manifest, she didn’t hear Wen Shi’s frightened call for help. Her movements slightly paused.

“But I hope it’s a human friend!”

After saying this, Wen Shi forcefully pulled the tablecloth and flung it backward. Without wasting any time, he rushed out. Even he was amazed at himself. Despite his legs feeling weak, he ran at the fastest speed of his life.

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