top of page

Golden Hour: Part 1 Diaries

Updated: Jul 5

Recreated with all credit to the authors at KQ Entertainment


00. INTRO

After the red moon rises


In the aftermath of Z’s disappearance, there was not a person in World Z who didn’t know of ATEEZ. The people split into two factions-those who decided to free themselves from emotional control and those who chose to stay under it. The Black Pirates and Thunder established a self-sustaining order so that these two factions would be able to coexist.


This world was entrusted to those who love and care for it,

And as for us, we returned to our world.


Yet, even after we returned, those feeling of excitement lingered.

The memories of our adventures and battles together remained vivid in our minds, as tangible as if they had been engraved on our skin.


Making the most of those vivid memories, we decided to dream together once again.


 

Since then, three years have passed.

And now, we’re living outside our dreams.


01. HONG JOONG

Each of them brought out their savings, gathering enough to rent the most affordable practice room to dance, sing in. In this world, their home world, the group-ATEEZ-was nobody, but when they looked in the mirror, their reflections reminded them of a time when they were nothing short of heroes in that other world. No, it was more like they were “drunk” on those memories of themselves. And just like the high of a good time drinking always fades when the morning comes, they were left to confront reality with a bad hangover. It takes money to dream, and with the need to work to make a living, their days spent gathered in the practice room became less and less. Even when they did gather, it was rare for all of the members to be present. But it’s not as though Hongjoong could blame them for being busy with work. All he could do to ease his disappointment was to greet them with a bittersweet, “That’s too bad. Let’s do what we have to do now and try again next time!” Everyone knows it’s impossible to live on dreams alone-acknowledging this hard truth is what it means to become an adult. All Hongjoong wanted was to maintain his relationship with the members, yet while he did his best to invite them out to eat for a quick get-together, even that wasn’t easy. Soon, even meeting once or twice a year began to feel like an accomplishment.


During his free time, Hongjoong worked part-time, practiced on his own, and kept a diary. While writing his diary, he suddenly realized that his memories from World Z were beginning to fade. And so, he decided to record his and the other members’ experiences on his personal blog. Inspired by comments like, “Is this a new novel? I’m dying to read what comes next!” what began as Hongjoong‘s travel diary, evolved into a detailed story akin to an epic Science Fiction tale. His blog readers increased exponentially as the story progressed, and it wasn’t long before he was approached by a publisher. Hongjoong’s story was published as a book, which went on to become a best seller, and soon his days were filled with reader meet and greets, special lectures, and appearances on various TV programs.


As Hongjoong gained recognition as a popular writer among young readers through TV and social media, his backstory of how he originally dreamed of becoming an idol to use his fame and find his long-lost family became well known too. And it just so happened, Hongjoong’s newfound fame did reunite him with not one, but two, long-lost family members: his father, who contacted him after seeing him by chance on a TV show, and his mother who looked up videos on the author after reading his book. At long last, his dreams of reuniting with his family came true. Good fortune and a reunited family, a career that he could be proud of, and fame. Hongjoong had clearly achieved all that he had ever dreamed of. He was blessed.


Only when he left the room, sure that the door was completely shut behind him, did his smile slip and a deep sigh unintentionally sweep out of him. The sigh was so loud that it shocked even Hongjoong himself, “Is this what I truly wanted?”


02. Seong Hwa

"My daughter’s crazy about that book, so I gave it a read too, but who in their right mind would put up with 40 years of school just to be a Guardian? The whole thing sounds a bit absurd, don’t you think?” The fire chief said, glancing at the copy of Hongjoong‘s novel on Seonghwa’s desk. Looking at the chiefs expression-he was clearly fishing for Seonghwa’s agreement-but Seonghwa didn’t quite know how to respond.


If he answered honestly, with something like, “It might sound absurd to you, but my friends and I were actually there. We saw an experienced it all, in person”, the chief would think he was out of his mind. As Seonghwa was mulling over the best way to retort, the dispatch bell rang.


For a long time, the memories of all the people Seonghwa failed to save in World Z haunted him. Even if the boy and the boy’s brother willingly joined ATEEZ’s cause, their deaths, along with those of the Black Pirates and the Thunder members who lost their lives to the Guardians’ attacks, as well as the corpses of the Sense Offenders that hung as a warning in the square, remained burned as an after image in his eyes. Each time he saw a similar face or silhouette walking down the street his heart would break again. And every time that happened, Seonghwa remembered her: The girl who left behind the Be Free bracelet and disappeared, the leader of Thunder. What would she have done?


Knowing her, she would have told him to move and find a way to save himself first. Saving oneself is the first step in saving other people. “Fine. Then I’ll start by saving myself from this anxiety.” So, Seonghwa began studying how to rescue people in different kinds of crises. While studying, he came across material made for aspiring firefighters preparing for the firefighter exam. As practice time together with the members became less frequent, it was only natural for Seonghwa to take the test. For better or worse, he passed. Studying was easy enough-Seonghwa had always been systematic by nature and good at planning, and he made it through the Candidate Physical Ability Test easily thanks to his regular exercise and dancing regimes.


That’s how Seonghwa became a firefighter. The hobby he began to calm his anxiety became his job. Sure, it wasn’t his dream, but that also wasn’t a good enough reason for him to give it up. The impact of his job was clear and real compared to the vague dreams he shared with the members, and he just couldn’t find any justification to quit. Fighting flames and rescuing people in crises was more rewarding than he had expected. It didn’t come with cheers and applause like performing on stage, but in their place, he was rewarded with the simple, heartfelt gratitude, and praise of those he saved, and their families.


And, thanks to his welcoming face and striking physique, Seonghwa was selected as the Fire and Disaster Headquarters’ yearly calendar model. Posing for the camera, he felt both pleasantly nervous and oddly empty. For so long, he had wanted nothing more than to be photographed and seen, but could never make that dream come true… How ironic that he could do so now, but only as a firefighter.


That day, Seonghwa returned to his office at the fire department and read HongJong’s novel that had been sitting on his desk.


03. Yun Ho

People gathered around the campfire, listening to Yunho’s singing and the sound of his guitar. With their eyes closed, they savored the melody. “The lyrics of Yunho’s song reminds me of a novel I read recently,” remarked one of the students. Behind the professors and students settled near the fire, a sandstorm raged.

Yunho was currently in Egypt.


At first, Yunho tried his best to attend whenever the members gathered, but he realized early on that it wouldn’t be easy to keep up with their regular meetings. In World Z, they were heroes. That world may have been full of just as many struggles and hardships, but the shared goals were specific, and the enemy was clear-cut. But as for World A, this world here… there was still hardship, but the source of that hardship was elusive and unclear. Uncertain who the real enemy was, at times it felt like the whole world was against them, yet other times it did not. Yunho practiced hard, auditioned, and busked, but as the days went on, he began to see this world as even colder than World Z. People stared at the phones in their hands with apathetic expressions, quickly moving from video to video, always on the hunt for some new and fast stimuli. The human sounds of laughter and crying could only be heard from the other side of those screens. They danced intensely to their music loudly blasting from a speaker, but the people passing by barely spared them a glance before turning back to their phones. The members were taken aback. Had the passerby stared at them without emotion, like the people of World Z, it would have further ignited their passion. But they didn’t know how to react to these people who would stop and watch for only a second or take a short video without listening to their song through to the end. No, to be honest, it hurt. It’s usually like that though. The higher you’ve climbed, the more painful the fall.


Never having experience such pain before, none of the members were able to recognize it as such, leaving them to bear their scars alone. Overtime, Yunho found that he enjoyed singing and dancing with the members less and less. Perhaps the other members felt this way too, but there was no way for him to know.


As the number of times they talked about their dreams began to decrease and the period between gatherings in their practice room gradually grew longer, Yunho’s interest naturally began to change. By chance, he came across the Cromer, something he had thought only existed in World Z, at an exhibition on the Mayans civilization in World A. He was at once fascinated by these mysterious relics and remains. Seeing them, Yunho was sure there were even more relics and secrets somewhere out there, still waiting to be discovered.


As you know, stepped into the ancient pyramid, his thoughts ran wild. Maybe, just maybe, if he could find more other worldly artifacts, he would be able to travel to another world and go on an adventure with the members once again.


04. Yeo Sang

His employees call him, Young and Rich, Tall and Handsome. Yeosang, who built his fortune investing in stock, was finally able to start a business of his own without his father‘s help. Though he didn’t want to admit it, his natural ability to read the flow of money reminded him of his father. The small start-up he generously invested in grew into a unicorn, and through his careful investment skills, he was able to transform the small, one-man business into a large scale operation in just three years.


“So you majored in classical music, and that’s what eventually sparked your interest in pop music, but I’m curious as to what lead you down this path. Was there any specific event that inspired you?” a Business Globe reporter asked YeoSang. “I realized that while blindness is both enchanting and noble, there are times it becomes a trap,” Yeosang answered vaguely before falling into thought.


After returning to this world, Yeosang could feel that the members had subtly, but definitely, changed. It was almost like finally realizing it was time to let go after blindly clinging to a one-sided love for so long. Before meeting the men in the black fedoras – before leaving for World Z – they were boys, and now they’ve come out the other side of the tunnel as adults. Only when he was able to see how the members had changed, did Yeosang realize he too had grown.


Until now, their hard work and efforts toward their dreams felt noble because they blindly excepted those dreams as if they were divine missions entrusted to them alone. It felt like those dreams were the only right path. Therefore, living for anything other than those dreams seemed cowardly and shameful, like excepting defeat, and that is exactly how the members felt before leaving for World Z. They were caught in the trap of blindness.

However, while in World Z, they came to learn just how precious emotions, art, dreams, and hopes all are, and at the same time, just how terrible blind belief can be. Upon returning to this world, the members agreed to continue pursuing their dreams as they always had, each of them holding the seed of new and diverse possibilities in their hearts. Yeosang knew this and believed that the members, consciously or not, must’ve felt the same.


While money might seem contrary to art, art would not exist without money. Historically, art was created for the enjoyment of nobles and aristocrats, and in protest of this truth, even more forms of art were born. Money was the group‘s biggest obstacle in achieving their shared dream, and Yeosang decided to tackle it head-on. In only a short time, he reinvented himself as a leader of the investment world. While he focused on sure profits for the most part, occasionally he would invest in the arts, even if he risk losing money. One of those investments was Hongjoong’s novel.


05. San

"Growing up moving from place to place, I always dreamed of picking a spot and setting down roots for myself somewhere. But thinking back on it now, I think drifting may have been written in my life fortune right from the start.” San said to himself, amid the salty wind of Jeju. The fixtures in the food truck rattled as if they were clapping back at San’s words. His tanned skin showed just how long he’d wandered about.


As he watched the members go their separate ways one by one, San could neither hold them back nor storm out and leave them. He had nowhere else to go. One day, after a lackluster practice- with more than half the members absent as they were too busy with their own lives- San found himself strolling down the alleyway, guided by his empty heart. He sat down on a small bench in front of a discreet old mom-and-pop corner store and cracked open a can of beer. “What do you call that feeling when you’re not quite sad, but not quite happy? When you’re sad but feel like your misery is almost laughable?” As he muttered to himself out of habit, he heard a voice from beside him. “What’s a youngster like yourself doing out here? It’s not even night yet.” It was the old man from the snack stall across the street. Instinctively, San asked him, “Hey Mister, was it always your dream to run a snack stall?” The old man seemed to get mad, retorting, “Dreams? Gah, you do what you can to put food on the table.” San asked again, “Do you think I can get by living without making my dreams come true?” The old man’s eyes met with San’s. “Dreams ain’t bad, but there are lots of other, more important, things in life. Sharing love, eating together, and cleaning up your own messes. Make sure you throw everything away right when you’re done.” At this, San noticed the black bag the old man had thrown at him earlier. Inside the bag were a steamy fresh sun-dae and a roll of kimbap. The sight of a young man drinking beer on an empty stomach must have worried him.


Taking a bite of sun-dae, San began talking to himself again. He decided that he wanted to know more about those other important things in life: “Sharing love, eating together… cleaning up your own messes.” So, San started a food truck. As he wandered around, he saw people eat together and share delicious food with those they loved. And sometimes, San even ate and talked with them, too. He met a wide variety of people - dreamers, dream seekers, those whose dreams had changed or come true, those living outside their dreams, and people with no dreams at all… That is how he came to learn the truth, the truth that most live their lives without ever achieving their dreams. “So why didn’t anyone ever teach us how to live outside of our dreams?” San thought. And he came to an answer of his own. Maybe I need to learn to welcome the reality I’ve been given even if it’s not the reality I wanted.


06. Min Gi

People say, in this day and age, it’s impossible to make it big unless you’re born into good fortune from the start, but MinGi proved them wrong. On his way to the practice room, he got cast on the street by a high-end designer, and in no time had made his debut in a fashion magazine as a professional model. MinGi, who was in a tough spot at the time, thought of it only as a lucrative part-time job, but that very magazine spread quickly caught the attention of famous brands and turned him into an in-demand model. He learned to walk the runway as easily as if it were a new dance. Soon he was walking for top brand fashion shows, decorating the cover of one of the world’s four major fashion magazines, and working as an official ambassador for the global brand that called him their muses. The streets were filled with ads and videos featuring MinGi as their model.


As his van ran down the road decorated with his pictures - MinGi holding a hamburger, MinGi modeling cosmetics, MinGi in the trendiest new clothes - MinGi was once again preoccupied with his social media accounts. He was uploading the photo he had just taken in Garosu-gil as he moved on to his next schedule. By the time the fashion world had started to pay attention to MinGi, his OOTD looks were already popular on social media. His photos and unique styling that made inexpensive outfits look like luxury goods were popular amount men as date outfit inspiration, and among women as candid-cool boyfriend shots. MinGi had built a reputation for himself as an influencer. With each social media update came thousands, millions of likes and silly comments such as, ‘You’re so cool!,’ ‘Do you guys know what MinGi’s MBTI is? I.C.O.N.’ Just then, another notification popped up among the rest: he’d just been paid the advertisement fee for last month’s shoot. Even at a glance, he could tell it was a huge amount of money. MinGi was now so rich that his past struggles with poverty seemed like another lifetime ago. Above all, MinGi was glad that he didn’t have to worry about his grandmother’s hospital bills anymore. He might not be an idol, but being an icon like this was good enough for him.


MinGi realized just how narrow-minded and limited his view of the world had been. “Yeah, things are good now,” he muttered to himself, gazing out the van window. He gaze was drawn to a group of boys busking on the street outside. The boys, who danced and sang clumsily but passionately, met each other’s eyes and laughed with each changing movement. MinGi was hypnotized by the group and stared at them blankly. As the red light turned to green and the car started again, the boys faded away into the distance. At that time, MinGi was overcome with the sense that he had crossed a river he could never cross again.


On the far side of that river were those times he had spent running recklessly, passionately toward his dreams, those times when it didn’t matter if anyone acknowledged him, and it was enough to simply have fun. Where MinGi stood now was a place where results and achievements trumped passion and spirit, a place where value could be bought and sold. While MinGi wondered if ‘this is what it must be like to become an adult,’ he couldn’t erase that vague feeling of longing. Just as he opened up his social media to distract himself, a video of HongJoong’s reunion with his family appeared on his feed.


07. Woo Young

If you were to ask him why he chose to be a flight attendant of all things, WooYoung would answer this:


A friend from my hometown once drunkenly said, “Is the stage really that special?

A teachers classroom could be their stage…The old man announcing sales at the

supermarket is on stage...So are the flight attendants giving presentations on

emergency life vests! Idols and actors aren’t the only ones giving performances on a

stage!” Those words stuck with me and before I knew it,

I had signed up for flight attendant training.


And, if you want to call him, insane, he would retort: ‘So what if I am?!’ in many ways, WooYoung wasn’t in his right mind at the time. All he knew was that he wanted a stage of his own, at that very moment. It didn’t matter where.


Maybe it was some kind of post-travel side effect. Using the Cromer to fight Z and the Guardians, constantly moving around and performing, those days were days that filled them with a rush of dopamine and adrenaline. Of course, those performances came with hardship and were part of a greater revolution, but a performance is a performance, no matter what the cause. WooYoung’s jitters were always followed by a wave of excitement that shot energy through his nerves, so much so that he often found himself, wondering, ‘Was that really stage fright?’


But returning to World A, that excitement disappeared, and a looming feeling of anxiety began to take its place. It was as if he had finished an immersive game, and now, turning the console off, had to return to reality. Though WooYoung and the members tried to do what they could, they would never be able to perform as they had as ATEEZ in World Z. Making a stage for themselves wasn’t so easy here. Just when WooYoung felt as though he’d never stand on stage again, his drunk friend offered him those words of comfort.


As someone who hates conflict and prefers to maintain peace, WooYoung was well suited to his job as a flight attendant. His calming, pleasant face matched his uniform perfectly, and he set passengers at ease as he welcomed them with an air of sophistication. While the plane prepares for takeoff, the flight attendants moved to their assigned positions and demonstrate how to wear seatbelts, respirators, and life jackets according to the announcement, but passengers rarely ever pay attention. To remedy this, WooYoung’s airline was planning a new style of announcement more like an event, and WooYoung volunteered to lead. In place of the usual announcement, and exciting melody played over the cabin speakers. Passengers who had been sleeping or flipping through movies, turned and looked with interest at WooYoung and the crew standing in the aisleway. With practiced ease, WooYoung delivered the announcements, including the destination and flight time, through song, rap, and dance. When the announcement was finished, the passengers broke out in applause. ‘Exactly! This is what I made for!’ WooYoung thought with a bright smile. WooYoung’s eyes were drawn to a few people in the crowd who cheered and clapped louder than the rest.


It’s just so happened that YunHo and MinGi were on the exact same plane.


08. Jong Ho

While recording vocal guides as a part-time job, JonHo began studying songwriting and musical composition on his own and spent his days creating original songs. At first, he wrote songs that the members could record and practice together, but, as everyone got busy, it became harder and harder to work together as a group. For his convenience, JongHo began writing solo songs, and becoming an idol with the members no longer seemed feasible, he turned to the path of a singer-songwriter. JonHo had already given up one dream due to injury-his dream of being a basketball player. He couldn’t stand to lose another.


He had posted the songs he created on MusicCloud, when a major music label reached out, impressed with JongHo’s songs. ‘Will I finally be able to debut as a singer?’ JongHo was excited, but as it turned out, the label was interested in an old group song he had uploaded long ago-a song he had recorded with the members-and wanted him to write a track for their upcoming idol group. While it was a bittersweet win, JongHo had no reason to refuse their offer. He would finally be able to make music his career and be recognized for his hard work. Whole JongHo started as a songwriter, it wasn’t long before he was entrusted with the roles of idol vocal coach and producer as well. He was neither an idol nor a singer-songwriter, but he was satisfied. He was working alongside idols and singer-songwriters and that was enough for him. He had found a way to continue working with music. While JongHo was no longer the one standing in the spotlight, he was willing to become the deep darkness that made those on stage shine even brighter.


One day, while recording with a second-year idol group, an argument broke out. What started with one member complaining, “I’m tired. I can’t do this anymore,” soon escalated into a full-fledged fight despite JongHo’s best efforts to de-escalate the situation. “Hey! If you were just going to give up on your dream like this, you shouldn’t have started in the first place!” Another member yelled. This riled up the first boy even more, and he grabbed the member by the collar, spitting back, “What do you know? We might be stuck together every day, but don’t act like you know me!” JongHo stepped in and split up the boys before the fight turned physical, giving them each time to calm down. The boy who had complained burst into tears and cried, “I can’t tell you everything but, my family is going through a really hard time right now, and being away from them like this hurts so much.” JongHo did his best to comfort and sympathize with the distressed boy.


He was reminded of a time long ago when MinGi had threatened to quit, JongHo had gotten so mad that he had punched him in return. ‘I was so young and selfish back then,’ JongHo thought to himself. ‘How is everyone?’ JongHo recalled the other members. Sitting in the empty recording studio, he played that old group song and raise the volume. The sound of the members voices pierced through his heart.

260 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Comments


bottom of page