Matryoshka Off-Limits Chapter 20

Chapter 20 Night of the Ancient Castle

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After receiving treatment at the hospital, Bushy Beard spent a tense night worrying about the incriminating evidence. Early the next morning, he patiently waited nearby, hoping to catch Wen Shi when he came out.

He couldn’t find Wen Shi but stumbled upon his friends, which turned out to be a pleasant surprise. He took care of one of them himself, causing a slight delay. By the time he resumed the chase, the others had already entered the ancient castle’s premises.

Bushy Beard snorted in displeasure. “You guys got lucky.”

Breathing heavily, they hurried to the iron gate. For them, this short sprint wasn’t much of a challenge, but their breathlessness mostly came from the unexpected pursuit they had just been through.

The butler had regained his health and resumed his duties. Spotting guests outside, he kindly invited them in.

Zhao Sanjie paused to catch his breath and inquired, “Would it be too much trouble?”

The butler smiled and assured, “The master is quite hospitable.”

Led by the butler, several players passed through the corridor. Even in daylight, the place exuded an unsettling stillness. Despite having a guide, it felt like wandering into an abandoned zone, where the bare walls emitted a cold, chilling sensation.

Zhao Sanjie leaned closer. The red walls emitted not just the smell of paint but also a faint trace of blood and a hint of fishy odor. He quickly deduced that there might be a monster’s lair inside the wall.

The butler led them to the dining room. Upon catching sight of Wen Shi, Zhao Sanjie’s breath quickened. He wanted to grab the other person’s neck in just a few steps, but considering the master’s presence, he forcibly suppressed his anger. Knowing that staying for even one more second would drive him to insanity, the butler stiffly turned away and left.

The spaciousness was one of the castle’s distinctive features, including a dining hall. However, the dark red walls and overly intricate crystal chandeliers made the space feel low and oppressive.

The castle master’s aura was not to be underestimated. With Zhao Sanjie leading the way, he first looked at the other person sitting at the long table.

The person had a good appearance, with fair and translucent skin and captivating eyes. As Zhao Sanjie’s gaze traveled downward, he reached other conclusions: there were large bloodstains on the shoulders, indicating recent injuries. The prominent dark circles on the fair skin suggested lack of sleep, yet there was little sign of fatigue in his eyes, as if he was well-versed in the current situation.

Being well-versed came with a reliance on something.

Zhao Sanjie’s covetous heart intensified. The only thing that a newbie could rely on was undoubtedly some incredible treasure. He licked his lips, thinking that if he could obtain this item, he would become even more formidable.

Unexpectedly, Wen Shi seemed even more excited upon seeing them. The joy on his face appeared genuine.

Finally, the tools who will help me deceive riches from the real bride’s hands!

Not long after, this excitement began to mix with a hint of strangeness.

Wen Shi gazed at the blood splattered on the group and thought that the only real threat outside the castle was the skeletal hands from the underground. As long as they didn’t cross the line of the streetlights, they wouldn’t be attacked.

Could these people be so recklessly opposing the game?

Oh, what fools.

Wen Shi couldn’t hide his expressions well. The players confirmed that they hadn’t misunderstood. The newbie’s eyes revealed disdain for them.

The castle master was the first to break the silence.

He looked at a few of them and spoke fairly amiably, “So you are descendants of the Lusi family. We met last time in the gallery.”

Then, he muttered to himself, “My most perfect masterpiece was created using the paper your family provided.”

One player was quick to react and noticed the extra ring on his hand, seemingly a symbol of some family identity.

The castle master’s expression turned cold as he looked at the only female player, A’Ling. She also had a ring on her hand, a simple design with a silver tail ring, with a lizard engraved in the middle.

“The scoundrel from the craftsman’s family. It’s been a long time since your father brought you here last. His frame had a fatal flaw that caused me to lose the most precious piece. Damn it.”

Wen Shi assessed the relationships.

The game eliminated the possibility of members from different factions deceiving each other, making their identities clear from the beginning.

Judging from the current situation, the blood bride’s faction has one person, and the Earl’s faction has three people. The person not mentioned by the Earl chose the Monster Alliance.

How could someone choose the Monster Alliance?

Wen Shi couldn’t understand.

He himself had no choice, hence, that decision was made reluctantly. It was surprising that someone willingly jumped into the fire pit.

Indeed, there seemed to be a problem with the intelligence of this group of players.

Wen Shi prayed that the dim-witted person wouldn’t sit next to him. The word ‘stupid’ had some magical power, easily spreading from one person to another.

Braving it, after the castle master extended an invitation for a communal meal, Zhao Sanjie sat down right next to Wen Shi and mouthed the word ‘monster,’ trying to indicate that they were on the same side.

Wen Shi forced a slight smile, almost copying the ‘tuituitui’ expression meme onto his own face.

Strangely, the castle master didn’t leave first after breakfast.

Since he stayed, no one dared to leave.

Everyone exchanged puzzled looks until suddenly the player seated near the castle master’s body stiffened, and his arm went limp, causing his fork to drop.

Veteran players wouldn’t make such a basic mistake of mishandling the utensils. The player used his left hand to frantically rub his right wrist, attempting to warm up. However, the entire piece of skin felt icy and stiff, as if he had been hooked up to an icy IV for over ten hours, with his veins frozen.

Others quickly recalled what they had just done, and this player also made an effort to think. In the short ten seconds after sitting down, he had only taken a bite of steak.

The problem was that he had seen Wen Shi eating as well, and nothing unusual happened. Another player had also eaten and was still sitting there just fine.

He was the third one to eat, which should have been the safest.

The player’s body temperature kept dropping, and no matter how many potions he took to recover, the effect was minimal.

In extreme despair, he picked up a dinner knife and tried to cut his arm to draw blood.

As the icy liquid flowed out, the player felt a bit better, but his expression quickly changed. The liquid oozing from the veins wasn’t fresh blood but a murky mixture of various colors.

“No, no…”

He made another cut on his leg, barely seeing some red color, but it became increasingly diluted.

Medicines, as well as items, were useless. He couldn’t even spot a single monster around.

All of this conveyed a clear fact: he had violated the rules of death.

Wen Shi’s gaze focused on the strange liquid on the ground, realizing that something had replaced the player’s blood–water soaked with pigments.

To be honest, Wen Shi was also surprised by the current situation. He had eaten the steak too, and from the taste, he could tell the chef had used red wine to add a subtle flavor to the surface of the steak. Maybe due to the combination of beef, Wen Shi hadn’t detected the distinct taste of the special red wine that Exiu and the others had tricked him into drinking on the first day.

Speaking of which, he had only triggered the consequences of being tracked by monsters and the blood bride that time.

Wait, being tracked by monsters and the blood bride.

Wen Shi suddenly realized that he currently belonged to the Monster Alliance and also had an undercover identity as a member of the bride’s faction. The other player who had eaten the steak without any issue earlier belonged to the bride’s faction.

The death rule of the pigments didn’t apply to them.

On the contrary, the player, who was on the verge of collapse, had chosen to assist the Earl, so he couldn’t consume anything made with red wine.

The castle master remained indifferent as his assistant walked step by step towards death, as if watching a mouse that had accidentally ingested poison.

“Cold, so cold.” The player shivered as he stood up, pouring the scalding water from the small teapot onto himself. He had lost all his strength. The teapot fell to the ground as the player collapsed straight down, becoming like an ice sculpture.

His head faced Wen Shi’s direction, his eyes wide open, still unwilling.

Only then did the castle master take action, calling the butler to tidy up the dining room.

The butler casually dragged the body away, muttering, “Young people nowadays have increasingly poor health, with sudden illnesses popping up now and then.”

Wen Shi felt a bit heavy-hearted.

… The death rules have been updated.

The previous food rules no longer work. One could skip breakfast if they wanted. Now, not only were they reinstated, but they had became even more strict.

Only then did the castle master say to the other two players, who were descendants of paper supplier, “The paper your father provided is impervious to water and fire, a one-of-a-kind in the world.”

He fell into reminiscence for a moment, “Unfortunately, he died violently here. You can go to the graveyard behind the maze to pay your respects later.”

The two players nodded, hesitating for a few seconds. Wen Shi guessed they were receiving a quest.

The last thing the castle master said to Wen Shi before leaving was, “The church is being prepared. The bride must be present at the wedding.”

Wen Shi remained silent for a moment. The way it was said with such certainty made one suspect that delaying the funeral would no longer be possible.

Compared to the previous solo instance, the advantage of being in a solo session was being leveled by the game.

Only a few of them were left in the dining room.

The liquid splattered by the deceased player tainted the tablecloth with an unpleasant smell, both in color and scent, making one lose their appetite.

Zhao Sanjie was preparing to give the newbie a lesson, to psychologically overpower the other person before continuing with what comes next.


“You might not be in the right mindset yet,” Wen Shi spoke almost at the same time. “To stay alive, follow the prompt and complete the tasks. There are various rules in the instance that cannot be violated, the rest you’ll have to explore on your own.”

Zhao Sanjie was taken aback, realizing that they were being treated like newbies.

Wen Shi’s gaze suddenly fixed on A’Ling’s earclip.

He was particularly sensitive to snakes and confirmed he hadn’t mistaken it. The snake-shaped earclip had just wriggled.

An item?

Wen Shi’s expression turned serious. “You’re not new players.”

“No kidding,” someone responded sarcastically.

Wen Shi was puzzled. Not new players, but they had just entered the game and turned themselves into this?

Was there something wrong with this group?

Zhao Sanjie stepped forward to change the topic. “Let’s get to know each other. I’m Zhao Sanjie.”

The fact that they had mistaken them for new players and reminded them not to violate the rules showed a potential for being a bit of a goody-goody underneath.

People with such personalities were easy to handle.

The next player to speak was from the bride’s faction, a female player who introduced herself as A’Ling. The other person had died in the outskirts earlier.

The Earl’s faction also had only two players left, losing the initial numerical advantage.

“Just call me Li Mouren,” said the long-haired man impatiently.

“Chu An.” The person next to him was much friendlier, proactively offering his hand, with an extra finger.

Wen Shi gave a half-hearted handshake. “Pei Wenwei.”

The extra finger felt boneless and limp, the cold and damp sensation reminding him of a snake again.

Chu An had a baby-faced look that easily elicited goodwill. He asked with a harmless smile, “Can you tell us what happened?”


Wen Shi firmly declined without any courtesy. Chu An’s smile froze.

Seeing that he had no intention of speaking, Chu An’s eyes darkened. He was adept at concealing his emotions and didn’t reveal much, preparing to complete the ritual task first.

A’Ling touched her earclip and left after Chu An.

Only Zhao Sanjie remained, continuing to build a connection. “Now we belong to the same faction, and the Monster Alliance has the highest difficulty level. We need good cooperation to have a chance at winning.”

Wen Shi sneered, winning my foot.

Half of the monsters became food for the real bride. This Monster Alliance has long been useless. Wen Shi sized up Zhao Sanjie. This man gave him a bad impression. He had never felt such a strong sixth sense before, constantly reminding him that the scar-faced man in front of him was dangerous.

Was this a benefit of establishing a contract with the Wandering Corpse? Could he keenly sense evil vibes?

As there was no evidence, Wen Shi could only speculate blindly.

He tried not to look at Zhao Sanjie with the eyes of a dead person.

He still had the option of transitioning with the bride, while Zhao Sanjie, as a latecomer, had been locked in with the monsters. He suddenly remembered that the game often emphasized truth, goodness, and beauty. Zhao Sanjie was chosen to enter the second round of the instance, almost walking into a dead end, as if someone was using his personality to send him to his death.

Withdrawn from his reverie, Wen Shi calmly responded to Zhao Sanjie’s words, “Of course.”

The instance wouldn’t lead to a completely dead end, and there might still be a chance to save the Monster Alliance, but the difficulty of this rescue… Wen Shi could only choose to wish him well.

At the same time, the two of them received task prompts.

【Side Quest: Strengthen the Monster Alliance.

Not long ago, the Monster Alliance suffered a heavy blow and urgently needs new members to join.

Prompt: Far away in the sky, but also close at hand.】

Zhao Sanjie tapped the table. “From the factions’ perspective, this instance has three important roles: the castle master, the bride, and the monsters. The first two aren’t worth exploring, but the origin of the monsters is intriguing.”

After a moment of contemplation, he continued, “Many old friends from my previous life came to attend the wedding. Now, they must be playing for their lives, and after death, they might turn into monsters, their souls trapped in the castle… Yes, this possibility is the highest. As for ‘far away in the sky,’ it probably refers to players like us, outsiders. And ‘close at hand’…”

He looked at the traces left behind as the body were dragged away and shrugged. “The castle’s servants might count as well. They could be multitasking, or else we won’t stand a chance.”

Wen Shi retracted his belief that Zhao Sanjie was foolish. This man was sharp in analyzing problems and skilled in psychological tactics.

Zhao Sanjie didn’t hide the information he deciphered, nor did he conceal his ruthless style, constantly emphasizing the concept of “we,” trying to instill the idea that they were a team.

For someone with a weak mind, it would be easy to build trust through such rhetoric.

“Impressive analysis,” Wen Shi offered a fair evaluation.

Zhao Sanjie replied, “My skills are only average. The truly formidable players are the ones who came with me.”

He was subtly trying to shift Wen Shi’s vigilance onto the other players.

Wen Shi: “Oh?”

Zhao Sanjie: “The one named A’Ling is already approaching the level of an elite player, and the rest are veteran players.”

Seeing Wen Shi’s confusion, Zhao Sanjie patiently explained, “Players are divided into three categories: ordinary, veteran, and elite.”

Wen Shi’s expression was hard to describe. “Veteran players who die right after entering?”

Truly, it wasn’t his fault. Even when he first entered the game, he avoided direct contact with food until the castle master personally raised his glass, and he only took a small sip after seeing the remaining players drink.

Zhao Sanjie: “In normal difficulty instances, some people tend to relax their guard.”

Wen Shi: “Could you tell me how this level is assessed? Are there any benefits to reaching it? I think I can make it.”

Zhao Sanjie took a deep breath. “Let’s talk about this later.” He reluctantly praised Wen Shi, following his words, “Being able to survive the first round of challenges, you are indeed impressive. Most new players who just entered the game would be at a loss.”

Wen Shi raised an eyebrow, as if the whole world knew he was a newbie.

He pretended to be mysterious and deep.  “What’s there to panic about? There aren’t many things in this world that can surprise me.”

Trying to act cool but overdoing it.

Zhao Sanjie fell silent for a moment and suddenly said, “Actually, the player who was just taken away wasn’t the first one to be eliminated.”


Zhao Sanjie’s expression remained emotionless as he said, “We lost another player.”


Watching Wen Shi’s surprised expression with amusement, Zhao Sanjie asked, “Did you expect someone to die right after arriving? Are you shocked or thrilled?”

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