Matryoshka Off-Limits Chapter 53

Chapter 53 Big Factory

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The escort personnel felt a big responsibility to free the sanatorium from Frank Hospital’s control. When he heard higher-ups were sending someone, he planned what to do. He wanted to make sure Dr. Aaron would ‘accidentally die’ during the inspection.

He was surprised to find that the doctor, who seemed harmless, was even wilder than him.

The truth serum’s effects didn’t last as long as during the interview, but it had a stronger impact on the nerves.

Wen Shi woke up with a bad headache, not remembering what happened. He felt like he said something about not revealing secrets.

He gently tapped his temple for relief and furrowed his brow as he asked, “Can I go in now?”

If he broke the confidentiality rules, he might have been dead by now. Being able to talk face-to-face meant he had passed the test.

The escort personnel turned off the recording device and gave a hesitant nod.

“The files can’t be taken,” he said and then swiftly walked away. This time, he didn’t wait for Wen Shi to finish reading before departing.

Watching the escort personnel’s figure disappear, Wen Shi glanced and asked, “What did I just say?”

Why was his reaction so strange?

Gatekeeper Ghost: “You prattled about dreams and mentioned wanting to become some kind of director.”


Wen Shi’s head had an exclamation mark above it. His tail stood up like an exclamation mark too.

His initial reaction was that he might have been exposed. Should he resort to killing to keep it hush? But then he realized just silencing wouldn’t work. He needed to somehow destroy the video evidence. Wen Shi wasn’t arrogant enough to increase the mission’s difficulty in an S-rank instance. It finally turned into a sigh at the corner of his mouth. “Forget it.”

Let it be, focus on the present first.

Wen Shi cautiously entered the room. It looked pretty normal, and the lighting was fine. There were at least hundreds of files on the shelves. He randomly pulled one out, but the words on it were unrecognizable. It was like his brain’s recognition ability malfunctioned.


Gatekeeper Ghost: “The words are faint, which is quite strange.”

“It’s not about that.” Wen Shi went further, unfolding a thick stack of documents that seemed like a blank scroll to him. “The person who brought me here emphasized confidentiality and not taking anything out, but strangely, they didn’t mention not destroying it.”

Was it a simple oversight, or…

The system’s cold prompt interrupted Wen Shi’s thoughts.

【Side Quest: Archives–Each file represents a life.

Upon completing the quest, you will have the chance to raise the sanatorium’s exploration level to 60-75%.】

In an instant, Wen Shi’s hand felt as if it were glued to the paper, unable to budge an inch no matter how hard he tried. The white paper crumpled from the center as if collapsing, starting from his fingers and spreading through his arm, getting swallowed by the paper uncontrollably.

Wen Shi had seen a horror movie before, where the protagonist was pulled into the TV screen. His current situation was quite similar, except he was being dragged into the record paper of the archive.


Of course, his phone vibrated at this moment.

The Gatekeeper Ghost quickly helped him answer, but by now, half of Wen Shi’s body had already been pulled into the paper.

“Hu-man… na-ture…” came fragmented words from the other end of the call.

The archive room’s temperature plummeted, communication was cut off.

Clenching his teeth, Wen Shi watched his own body vanish, a sensation similar to retracing time in the quality inspection area, but longer and more tormenting.

The Gatekeeper Ghost sensed the other being consumed by a different space, reluctant to tug for fear of his body being torn into pieces.

In less than a minute, Wen Shi was entirely engulfed by the file. From outside, the entire archives room appeared devoid of anyone. Only a chilling silence remained.

Tick, tock, tick, tock.

A sound like dripping water reached his ears. After who knows how long had passed, Wen Shi gradually awakened from a state of extreme weariness. Struggling to lift his eyelids, the first thing he saw was the pure white ceiling.

Having gone through the inspection area once before, Wen Shi wasn’t overly panicked at finding himself suddenly in an unfamiliar scene.

Overcoming the initial dizziness, Wen Shi felt his wrist chilled. He turned his head and found himself receiving an IV drip.

Gazing steadily at the needle for a few seconds, his gaze followed the IV line downward, eventually fixating on pale fingers… the fingers remained elegantly long and fair, with even joints proportioned perfectly. However, this slimness had to be compared to someone of his age. These hands clearly belonged to a child who hadn’t yet reached adulthood.

In a belated shock, Wen Shi abruptly sat up.

He touched his head and realized the cat ears were gone, and his tail was missing too.

Upon further inspection, Wen Shi couldn’t even see his attribute panel. However, the bell around his neck was still there.

There were no mirrors in the room, but he didn’t need confirmation. He lifted the blanket and glanced at his hands and feet–it was clear what had happened… he had become smaller.


The sudden sound alerted Wen Shi. He turned his head towards it, only then noticing a child lying on the neighboring bed.

Wen Shi pulled out the IV drip, and almost instantly, his heart began to race intensely. He struggled to regulate his breathing, covering his chest as he walked towards the other bed.

The child on the bed curled up, with a feverish body and watery eyes. The child was painfully thin. If not for the sound earlier, they would have been hard to spot on the bed.

“Wake up.” Wen Shi scanned around the bed but couldn’t find a call button.

Just as he was considering going outside to call for help, his eyes suddenly narrowed. There was a number behind the child’s ear: 81.

The door to the ward was pushed open suddenly, and several workers in protective suits walked in. After inserting a thermometer, they checked the child’s pupils by opening their eyelids.

“No. 81 is not going to make it. Remove and dispose of it quickly.”

With that, they grabbed Wen Shi by the collar, touching his forehead to inquire if he felt unwell anywhere.

Wen Shi shook his head.

“No. 82 is all clear.” The worker’s words carried a hint of excitement.

No. 82.

Upon hearing this number, Wen Shi’s heart tightened.

Was it a coincidence? Or was it related to the task of deleting File No. 82?

The worker started the IV drip for Wen Shi again. After the child was taken away, the ward was left with Wen Shi alone. He hesitated for a few seconds, looking at the back of his hand, but decided not to remove the needle this time.

“Each file represents a life.” Wen Shi pondered the words from the task and gradually understood his current situation–he was now experiencing a phase of life recorded in an archive.

The unexpected sound of the system prompt rang out once more. Even though he couldn’t see the attribute panel, the mechanical voice brought a slight comfort. At least, it made everything feel less like an illusion.

“Loading requirements: 1. Strive to survive. 2. Escape from the sanatorium’s control.”

Similar to the videotape task, the game presented two requirements here as well.

“The last call was from Ji Yuanzhi. He mentioned ‘human nature.’ He wouldn’t make such a call for no reason…”

It was unlikely that Ji Yuanzhi accidentally discovered clues about his mission. Wen Shi thought of Zhou Xiaochun. If the other party was smart, he should know that his teammates were his only straw.

The phrase “human nature” was likely a result of Zhou Xiaochun’s divination.

“A test of human nature?” Wen Shi silently curved his lips upward.

This was his area of expertise.

The ward lacked windows and clocks, making it impossible to distinguish day from night. When time awareness is lost, people become unusually irritable.

Wen Shi set his first goal: figure out whose life he was currently experiencing.

With only a third of the IV drip bag remaining, the ward door opened.

Following the sound, Wen Shi turned his gaze to the empty doorway, which led to a pitch-black corridor. He furrowed his brow, about to look away, when suddenly he locked eyes with the pale-faced child at the foot of the bed.

Wen Shi almost blurted out a curse.

The child had a pair of sharply contrasting black and white eyes, with pale skin and inflamed corners—unmistakably the recently removed No. 81.

In his current fragile state, Wen Shi’s body barely showed any movement even while breathing. He couldn’t open his backpack, let alone use items. In such a situation, facing a ghost was undoubtedly a death sentence.

The【Heavenly Male Scattering Flowers】was rendered ineffective. The child showed no impulse to call for their mom. They simply stood there quietly.

Wen Shi subtly averted his gaze, pretending not to have seen anything.

He added a new piece of information to his understanding of No. 82: the ability to see impure things.

The child stood at the foot of the bed for a while. The area where the creature was located felt cold. Even with the blanket covering him, Wen Shi couldn’t warm his feet.

“The feeling of being destroyed is unpleasant,” the child’s voice drifted softly, “Escape and survive.”

With that, the child disappeared as if they had no harmful intentions whatsoever.

Wen Shi wasn’t sure if he had absorbed those words, but he closed his eyes and turned to sleep.

When the IV drip finally finished, the worker came in on time to remove the needle. They also brought in another child with the No. 83 carved behind their ear. Around ten years old, child 83 had a bright and innocent smile, greeting Wen Shi as they entered.

The removal of the needle woke him up. Wen Shi nodded absently.

A quiet night passed.

Drowsy and unaware of how long he had slept, a worker approached with a food tray.

“Eat.” The order was delivered in a commanding tone.

The tray contained only a piece of meat, freshly cut it seemed, and it was even squirming.

Since becoming smaller, Wen Shi had lost his sense of hunger. Now, looking at the meat on the plate, he only felt intense disgust.

While the worker went to deliver food to other wards, No. 83 whispered, “If you don’t want to eat, I’ll help you.”

Clenching his teeth, No. 83’s round face contorted painfully, as if it took great determination to say this.

Wen Shi fell silent for a moment. “No need.”

Skillfully using the dining knife, he cut the meat into small pieces and swallowed with closed eyes.

Until the situation was clear, it was best not to do anything out of line.

After breakfast, a worker came to teach them reading and writing. It wasn’t to improve education, but according to the worker, it was beneficial to develop their brains moderately to prevent contamination.

This was probably the most relaxed moment of the day. After finishing reading, Wen Shi was taken directly to the laboratory.

He didn’t need to do anything, just lie on the cold table, restrain his hands, and watch as a group of people drew blood or injected various types of substances into his body.

Researchers spoke using professional terms that Wen Shi couldn’t understand, meticulously recording data. Afterwards, he was placed into a transparent glass container, with several tubes inserted into his body.

A slightly older voice said, “Don’t use anesthesia. We need to increase his pain tolerance.”

Wen Shi was in too much pain to even curse. Immersed in the solution, he experienced for the first time what it meant to have his body ’emptied out.’

[T/N: body feels emptied out: it’s a meme that came from a tv advertisement of pain relievers]

The place where the tube was inserted hurt too much. Wen Shi could only half-close his eyes and constantly divert his attention by thinking about other issues.

The game emphasized interconnectedness. Ji Yuanzhi and the twin sisters’ ability to perform the blood donation task was likely due to their prior visit to the quality inspection area. Blood donation required a biopsy, similar to the tissue sampling done in the inspection area.

Similarly, the tasks related to videotapes and archives wouldn’t have been issued out of thin air. They must also stem from something he triggered.

After a while, using the last of his strength, Wen Shi struggled to spit out a three-syllable name: “Jian Qingrong…”

Jian Qingrong’s diary and the videotapes had similarities—both recorded the causes of death of the Big Factory workers.

What could be connected to the archive task?

The escort personnel? From his professional identity and the conversation before entering the archives room, the escort personnel wasn’t out of the question. Wen Shi instinctively tried to rub his fingertips together to think but ended up aggravating his wound, causing him to involuntarily hiss in pain.

His brain’s nerves twitched along. When the pain subsided slightly, Wen Shi added Jian Qingrong to the list of possibilities.

Jian Qingrong often came to the sanatorium for blood donations. He could have used a virus to eliminate the factory manager. The contaminant box he kept hidden also originated from the sanatorium.

In reality, there might be an even closer connection between Jian Qingrong and the sanatorium.

“Take him back.” The voice of the elder indicated the end of today’s experiment.

Wen Shi tried to make out the person’s face, but his vision remained blurry.


Returning to the ward after resting for a few minutes, the worker delivering meals arrived. It seemed like they knew Wen Shi couldn’t muster the strength to get up, so they mashed the meat into a paste and forcefully fed him with a bit of water.

With an absence of awareness regarding the passage of time and the compounded pain in his body, No. 83 was Wen Shi’s sole comfort.

During the IV drip, he would gently massage Wen Shi’s frozen wrists with his small hands. When Wen Shi couldn’t sleep, he would come up with imaginative stories to soothe him. One time, he sang off-key, and Wen Shi couldn’t help but laughed, which excited No. 83 greatly as he ran over barefooted, exclaiming, “You laughed!”

Due to the lack of entertainment, Wen Shi developed a hobby of playing with bells.

No. 82 was quite fortunate. Throughout the experiments, he not only avoided contamination like the other subjects but also seemed to trigger a peculiar power.

Then, one day, while playing with bells, Wen Shi accidentally discovered that he could briefly control contaminated people through sound.

“It really is you…”

Bells, sound. Such coincidences rarely happen in this world.

The bells were the key to triggering the archive task. Gently touching the copper surface, Wen Shi finally understood whose life he needed to embody. The escort personnel wouldn’t send gifts through elevators. Only Jian Qingrong, the one who even sent his ‘father’, would give him a bell.

To better immerse himself in the other person’s mindset, Wen Shi started learning to write a diary like Jian Qingrong’s, with the content getting closer to him, specifically recording ghosts.

He could see impure things, and the sanatorium was abundant with deceased individuals. Wen Shi would meticulously note down the ways they died and their post-death conditions. The diary’s thickness kept increasing until there were only a few pages left. Then, Wen Shi’s hand trembled, and the pen tore through the paper.

Hearing the noise, No. 83 asked, “What’s wrong?”

Wen Shi lowered his gaze. “Nothing.”

He finally understood the true research value of the videotapes.

Another uneventful day of IV drip.

On that day, No. 83 developed a fever. His beautiful, seemingly speaking eyes started oozing yellow fluid.

A worker in protective clothing entered, incessantly complaining to colleagues, “On New Year’s, why should we be stuck here on duty?”

“Quit the chatter. Hurry up and dispose of No. 83.”

No. 83 seemed like an injured young animal, weakly whimpering.

Wen Shi lay in bed, clutching the bell tightly. The escort personnel had revealed that contaminants existed inside the workers’ bodies. This meant he could use sound to prevent the destruction of No. 83.

During the Lunar New Year, the sanatorium was deserted, presenting the best opportunity to escape with No. 83. However, the risk was substantial.

“Human nature…” Wen Shi muttered the crucial keyword and suddenly laughed.

The skill of divination could be quite deceptive.

The term “human nature,” though suggesting he should save No. 83, didn’t actually mean that. He needed to embody the human nature of No. 82, the choices of Jian Qingrong.

The game was quite cunning.

First, it presented the task requirement of escaping the sanatorium’s control. The child ghost encountered on the first night kept subtly hinting: Escape, hurry and escape.

In reality, there were many ways to escape control, and it was not limited to a literal escape.

If he were Jian Qingrong during this period, he definitely wouldn’t escape. Instead, he would lurk in the shadows, understanding everything about the sanatorium, waiting for the right moment to take control.

【Each file represents a life.】

Experiencing the life of No. 82, he could only make choices as No. 82 did. If he made significant decisions that weren’t recorded in the file, the consequences would be unimaginable.

No. 83 had already been moved from the bed onto a stretcher. Wen Shi remained completely still throughout.

No. 83 mustered his last bit of strength to reach out a small hand, as if trying to warm Wen Shi’s wrist again. He struggled to hum an off-key song: “Sleep, go to sleep…”

Wen Shi tightly shut his eyes.

Redemption was nonexistent in Jian Qingrong’s life, and No. 83 didn’t truly exist. This was a death trap set by the task, an attempt to lure him into saving someone.

Wen Shi suddenly felt a strange irony.

The game seemed to cast him as a virtuous character after encountering Jian Qingrong, shaping No. 83, and inviting him to experience Jian Qingrong’s perspective.

…he’s the only one who was willing to help me. I liked him, but at a crucial moment, I would still abandon him.

Just like the teenager said—

On the road, there’s a flower. It’s very beautiful, so you like it. When you encounter a small animal for the first time, you’re intrigued by its novelty and grow fond of it. However, would you be willing to sacrifice your life for either the flower or the small animal?

The answer was no.

No. 83 was taken away. His out-of-tune singing faded along with the closing door, vanishing into the quiet corridor.

At the same time, the system notification sound rang out:

“Congratulations on completing the Side Quest: Archives. Your current exploration level has increased to seventy-five percent.”

The world shifted from darkness to brightness, and the glaring overhead light stung the eyes.

The hospital bed, IV drip… all vanished. Wen Shi leaned against a bookshelf, feeling almost drained, as if everything were an illusion. Surrounding him were rows of file folders. He clutched one tightly in his hand.

The cover, made of parchment, prominently displayed “No. 82,” its blood-red letters as if seared onto the paper.

To complete the task, he should immediately destroy File No. 82.

However, Wen Shi seemed unsure of his plan. Attempting to put the file into his backpack, he realized it wouldn’t fit, so he placed it in a safe instead.

This time, he succeeded.

The Gatekeeper Ghost looked at him with concern. “Are you alright?”

Wen Shi shook his head.

The exploration level was given as a range. The archive task wasn’t as difficult as the videotape task. He would likely receive seventy-five percent, possibly even combined with his teammate’s portion.

It seemed Ji Yuanzhi had also successfully completed the blood donation task.

“How long was I gone?”

Gatekeeper Ghost: “About ten minutes.”

Wen Shi took out his phone and dialed a number.

After a while, the call connected. Ji Yuanzhi sounded unusually weak, struggling to even say ‘hello’ at first, only audible breaths.

Wen Shi: “Are you alright?”

“Feels like my body… has been emptied out,” Ji Yuanzhi managed a wry joke.

Wen Shi laughed at his words.

He was the one who felt emptied out.

The two didn’t waste time with small talk. They immediately shared the clues they had gathered.

“My task was to encounter a monster. After completing the task, I received a video with information about the monster. You might not believe it, but the hospital keeps a monster captive. The meat in the cafeteria comes from that monster. And it also…”

“Is it alive?” Wen Shi recalled how fresh the meat he ate every day was.

“To be exact, it’s in a state of dormancy, with signs of awakening,” Ji Yuanzhi explained in one breath, then asked, “What about you? What did you find?”

“Jian Qingrong is Director Jin,” Wen Shi dropped a bombshell right away. “He’s been collecting and studying various death-related data.”

He experienced the early life of Subject No. 82. As for Jian Qingrong, he was still alive. Given his personality and abilities, the former director most likely had been eliminated.

Ji Yuanzhi was puzzled. “Why study this?”

Wen Shi closed his eyes. “I suspect he’s searching for a way to become the most powerful supernatural entity.”

In the diary, Jian Qingrong indirectly or directly influenced the deaths of numerous individuals—some infected, others suicides. The information on the videotapes was even more comprehensive, encompassing both tangible and intangible aspects—how much rationality remained after death, and the extent of their abilities. All of these were testing parameters set by Jian Qingrong.

He had been able to see these impure entities since he was a child, and he had never stopped observing them.

How could a good person want to become a supernatural entity? Over on Ji Yuanzhi’s end, a terrifying conjecture suddenly emerged. His tone wavered for the first time, “Could he possibly be trying to…” He paused for several seconds, his voice lowered in horror, “trying to devour the monster inside the sanatorium… Is he insane?!”

Even from the brief descriptions in the data, one could sense the tremendous power of the monster confined in the sanatorium.

Wen Shi’s voice turned icy and calm, “Jian Qingrong has been able to see supernatural entities since childhood. According to folk beliefs, his destiny and constitution are extraordinary. He grew up consuming monster meat. During the process of being used as a test subject, he might have awakened the ability to control monsters. There’s a chance that the experiment might not have been in vain.”

Ji Yuanzhi fell silent for a few seconds before saying, “Whether he dies or the monster dies, the victor will become unimaginably powerful.”

Not just for the task, but when these two big bosses clash, the entire sanatorium and perhaps even the world will experience localized breakdowns.

Only one ending remained, with everything fading to nothingness.

They had both considered this, and the two of them remained silent for a while.

Finally, Ji Yuanzhi broke the silence, his voice dry, “How could the game allow such a powerful monster to come into existence?”

The victorious side of successful consumption might directly ascend to become a legendary spirit.

Without any reason, Wen Shi spoke an odd sentence, “So, I came.”


Wen Shi didn’t respond. He silently gazed at the file in his hand. He wasn’t referring to himself but to the ‘I’ from a parallel world.

This was the reason the game tolerated the teenager’s chaotic killing in the quality inspection area.

The teenager had said before that the game wanted to use his hand to deal with something very delicious and nourishing. Jian Qingrong hadn’t become a malevolent ghost yet, so this “something” must undoubtedly be the monster.

Monsters had a strong possessiveness and wouldn’t tolerate others sharing the spoils. When Jian Qingrong transformed into a ghost, the latter would also become food in their eyes. Of course, the same applied to Jian Qingrong.

The teenager’s powers have been partially sealed, and his most adept charm technique seem to be ineffective against Jian Qingrong. He might not necessarily have the upper hand.

The game’s objective was to have these three sides battle it out, thus balancing the entire instance.


The fifth floor.

Many of the sanatorium staff were unaware that there were five floors in total. The structure of the fifth floor was entirely different from the others. It seemed like a separate space, with endless darkness.

No matter how advanced the air purification system was, it couldn’t eliminate the smell of blood in this place.

A slender hand gently crushed the protruding tentacle from the darkness. No burst of fresh blood was felt. The teenager frowned, “Another illusion.”

This thing had the ability to create powerful auditory and visual illusions.

The milky-white little goat horn on top of the teenager’s head became the only source of light in the darkness. He lightly bit his fingertip, tainted with the scent of blood in the air. “I’m about to find you.”

After going through so much trouble to find it, once he did, he would definitely start by gripping the heart of the creature, then slowly devour it alive.

Countless illusions piled up on the fifth floor. The teenager had only completed one-third of the distance.

And at the end of the emptiness, in the darkness, a monstrously massive monster was imprisoned. It had once resided in the deep sea. The exhaust and waste from the laboratory had turned it into the most formidable entity in this world after undergoing transformation.

Contaminants could no longer affect the monster. Its flesh could even help other beings resist some of the contamination. Unfortunately, the toxins had deeply affected its nerves during the mutation process, forcing it into a deep slumber.

The monster’s flesh possessed regenerative abilities. To alleviate its predicament, the sanatorium had been feeding it with blood.

This desperate solution was coming to an end. After over twenty years, the creature was finally about to awaken again.

It was aware that humans had been using its flesh, but it didn’t care. To the monster, humans were nothing more than the food it had been raising. Its season of indulgence was approaching. The only thing that made it anxious was a powerful presence drawing near. The suctions around its mouth twitched and made a gurgling sound. It was prepared to awaken prematurely. After devouring all the humans here, its abilities would be enhanced.

Unlike the turmoil on the fifth floor, just one floor below, the fourth floor was much quieter.

In the narrow corridor, only one office was lit. Various gruesome photos were hanging on the walls, and the desk and floor were piled with thick data files. On the opposite wall, there were several display screens showing the chaotic scene of the second floor battle.

Jian Qingrong stood silently by the wall, his forehead no longer hidden by overgrown bangs. His cold and flawless face was fully revealed.

After a while, he reached out and took down the bloodiest photo from the wall. The pure black eyes displayed an indescribable eeriness.

“Indeed, this method of death is preferable.”

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