Chapter 4: Hổ Trành (feline necromancer on steroid in Thanh Hóa - Nghệ An).

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In Thanh Hóa province's mountainous area, there's one feared creature, a species of tiger the size of buffaloes each with an army of ghosts at their command. Hey! That sounds familiar. Ah... right... I have one of those, too. The ghost army, I mean. Though having a tiger as a pet wouldn't be too bad, maybe I should get one of those as well. Or not, I'm a married man, and as the saying goes, "A mountain can't have two tigers." I've only now realized she'll be the one approving this book before it gets published... Ah well, I'm leaving the joke in. This wouldn't be the first time I have to get out of a tight spot I'd gotten myself in.

1: Story summary:

_ Legends had it that, on the windy nights at Thanh Hóa, one can still hear the crying and singing of those poor souls who were enthralled under the power of the Tiger Demon. They were called Ma Trành or Trành Quỷ and were the victims eaten by the tiger, doomed to serve him forever as a flickering phantasm of what they once were. There were only two ways to regain their freedom and reincarnate, both of which were considered almost impossible to pull off by many seasoned walkers.

The first one being once their master had had its 100th prey, and if they had lured a new victim for it, then there would be a tiny chance that Hổ Trành will let its servant have their freedom back. One should not bet all his/her hope on this, though. The more Ma Trành it has, the stronger the demon becomes, and there was no upper limit as far as we know it. Therefore, there was no reason for the monster to let any of those Ma Trành free from its grasp, weakening itself in the process.

The second solution would be to kill the monster. This, however, is also something easier said than done and should only be attempted by experienced walkers. We don't want another walker joining the army of servants under the enemy's control, do we?

2. Motivation:

_ In Vietnamese lores and legends, the tigers are regarded with utter respect, both for their strength, majestic, charisma, and intelligence. They're said to be the descendant of Phạm Nhĩ – a mighty and rebellious god who had once single-handedly turn the Heaven upside down from rage. Think of him as Vietnamese Monkey King Sun Wukong, with some traits of One Punch Man toss in for good measure.

Having this trait of being the descendant of one of Vietnamese most powerful god, tigers are the beasts that are most likely to become sentient, and once they do, their power would vary so greatly it's hard to even keep track of. If they learn good qualities, they will become local gods and trusty allies of we walkers. However, if they decided to go rogue, they would become the threat we know as Hổ Trành.

_ Their ancestor Phạm Nhĩ (lit Big Ears) has a pair of magical ears that grant him a super-hearing on steroid. He can hear everything ever being said, across all realms known to walkers, without even need to move a single muscle. Now, while before being exiled and forced to reincarnate, Buddha had made Nhĩ closed his magical ears, his descendants still retain some of its power. Hổ Trành gains the knowledge and abilities of its Ma Trành; thus, they will actively hunt powerful walkers on missions. Being an ambush predator, the Demon Tiger will wait for the moment you are most vulnerable, either while injured from the latest battle or when you lower your guard, to strike. It's also known from one interrogation that the Hổ Trành will find the most potent Ma Trành they could to add to their collection like some sort of hobby, and they would trade their servants with one another from time to time. Thankfully, they retain their solitary way of life, so this rarely happens.

3. Appearances:

Hổ Trành's sizes vary from being slightly larger than a normal Indochina tiger to a massive build almost equal to that of an Asian elephant. It really depends on how many people it had killed, and it can also control its size if needed. Its fur is smoke grey, and its stripes are either black or glowing neon green. With every kills, the ears of Hổ Trành will gain a red dot, signaling a new Ma Trành at its command. After it had gathered its 100th victims, the Demon Tiger would ascend to godhood and turn into an evil god known as Thần Hổ Xám. In this stage, its eyes gain a glowing red flare that burns as bright as fire.

4. Abilities:

_ Ma Trành retains most of their abilities while living, with the added bonus of the hallucination-inducing property to lure their prey to their master.

_ Hổ Trành are extremely cunning foes, able to lay traps, make complicated plots and strategic moves with high efficiency. It can also put a curse directly on a family line, targeting and eliminating loved ones of their target to further isolate him/her. Also, Hổ Trành gain access to every knowledge and abilities their victims had, so the longer they are allowed to roam freely, the more dangerous they will become.

_ When they ascended into godhood and became Thần Hổ Xám, they will gain even more OP power. Their soul could then leave the body behind and take on the physical form of a cobra, so venomous that even a minor god could die from a single drop of its venom. In fact, the word "cobra" in Vietnamese is "Rắn Hổ," with "Hổ" meaning "Tiger." Now, a cobra that still retains the ability to modify its own size can reach places that usually a giant tiger wouldn't be able to. Not without being noticed by walkers anyway. And with venom that potent, even legendary walkers aren't entirely safe, even in the most secured bunker.

While the cobra can be killed, the soul of Thần Hổ Xám can't unless its Tiger body is destroyed. This makes them even more of a threat to walkers.

5: Counters and Contingency:

_ I've been told if you say "Here, kitty kitty!" to them three times while walking backward with a ball of yarn in your hand had worked wonder for some walkers... you know, in getting them turned into the demon's minions. If you actually considered that, even for a second, you need to sign up for a class of common sense. Then again, I'm probably not one who could talk about common sense, given my own track records.

_ With god-like power, a cunning mind, curses, and an army of phantasm at its control, the power of a Thần Hổ Xám would be a force to be reckoned with and could very well be a foe that all active walkers must join forces to subdue.

_ The most effective strategy against this monster is to wait for them to take on the cobra form and kill both the snake and the tiger simultaneously, as they can't give new orders to their servants while being the cobra.

_ Like the Rác, it's one of the few creatures our walkers have to put a wanted order on. They are the easiest to kill when they have only their first handful of Ma Trành, after all.

Now, since the last two chapters have been way too serious for my own taste, the next one will be a little light-hearted.

(Memes will be added soon).

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