At the age of six, Yoo Haneul received his first journal. It was a cute notebook with red cover decorated with his favourite cartoon characters, only 40-pages thick. The child had been imitating his father engraving his life into his own diary using whatever paper available so the young journalist finally decided to gift his son his very own notebook for his birthday. Haneul could read and write better than his classmates so he got into the hobby quite easily despite his age. That first year, he only wrote when reminded so 40 pages were more enough.
Not for long though…
At the age of eight, Yoo Haneul finally realized feelings are more than just happy, sad and angry. As he took journaling very seriously, he began to struggle to describe the complicated emotions he felt throughout the day. The young boy also enjoyed reading the newspaper to refine his writing in order to squeeze as much information as he could into a page. His young mother could help him at first but soon realized his only boy has a talent just like his father. And so, on his eighth birthday, Mrs. Yoo gave her son a dictionary and some novels to read. For some, it was too much to present to a boy at that age but she knew he had potential and enjoyed the hobby so she decided to support it.
At the age of nine, everything fell apart. Mr. Yoo was killed while helping a drowning child and the young family was left without support. The young, jobless mother couldn't afford to pay the house loan, and her skills could only afford her so much. And so, Haneul left for the ghetto a few months after the funeral.
At the age of nine, writing became his only solace.
At the age of eleven, the abuse started. The young and beautiful widower had been the talk of town and caught the eyes of the main alpha of the neighbourhood. Struggling to make ends meet and keep her child alive, Mrs. Yoo surrendered their lives to the hand of the thug leader. It didn't matter that they suffer, as long as they live. And so, for the young Yoo Haneul, his nightmare began. His pretty face much like his mother attracted the younger gangsters – most of them taunting him with words of lusts, but never a hand. Because they were afraid of the house's alpha.
Everything changed that summer.
Haneul presented as an omega, a year earlier than normal omegas. The old alpha grabbed the opportunity to make money from him, advertising his upcoming heat for any takers. And all this time, his mother stood watch, saying nothing in fear that the man would leave them if opposed. To avoid the authority, Haneul was forced to stop schooling and instead, helped his mother out with her flower shop.
Things got better when Mrs. Lim, a teacher from the only omega school in town, stumbled across the young Haneul only to realize he was not attending her school. She took action and forced Haneul to attend or risk being taken by social service, and so the man had to stop his horrible act for a while, that was, until he figured out how to hide the evidence.
And then things got worse.
At the age of twelve, Yoo Haneul finally gave his journals to his teacher. There had been whispers about him getting sold, but like every other whisper, he thought it was merely a rumour. But when his mother finally treated him like a real mother should that night, he knew he would never see her again. So young Haneul ran, with all his journals, hiding near the school ground until a guard finally found him. And when Mrs. Lim was called to help, he gave her his whole life. He was scared, and she was the only one he trusted.
Mrs. Lim kept him close and promised to protect him. And she did; his abusers never got the chance to touch him again. But they were never caught.
At the age of thirteen, a publisher called and all hell broke loose. Through the help of his teacher, his story made its way to a renowned true-crime publisher who wanted to use his journals for a book and expose what happened to public. Haneul was reluctant, but the promise of a better life was too tempting for the traumatized child still haunted by nightmares. And so, he agreed to reveal his whole life to the world.
It took a while until people realized they were reading about an ongoing case with the abusers still running free, and that put a pressure on the authority. Haneul's case became the talk of the country. But like every story, some started to accuse the publisher of fabricating the whole story unless they reveal who the boy is, and it quickly spiraled into a mess involving politics. And so, to keep the young Haneul safe from further slander, his face was revealed and Haneul was forced to speak up about his situation.
He was forced to do it. Despite him not wanting the attention. Despite him being afraid of adults.
He was asked to put on a strong front and tell his embarrassing, traumatizing experience to the whole country. In turn for the authority to finally take action against his abuser.
And they did. The man who started it all was imprisoned. But that was it. And Haneul was asked to be satisfied with just that.
But after all was said and then, things did not get better for Haneul. Because now, everyone knew who he was, everyone knew what he went through. They could never see him as just a child anymore. He was either a symbol of weakness or strength. People either sympathized or idolized him. They wanted to know how he lived, as if he was a celebrity.
Yoo Haneul was just thirteen when people made him the poster boy for strength without his consent. And he was expected to fill that position or be criticized. He was paraded around, asked to give talks and inspire others when all he wanted to do was cry and hide. For him to appear normal, Haneul constantly had to see therapists and take pills to calm his nerves. He needed help to sleep, he needed help to interact with other children his age, let alone with the adults. He was greatly traumatized and yet he was expected to appear strong to be an inspiration to other victims.
He thought everything was over when it ended. But relief never came.
At the age of eighteen, Yoo Haneul decided to publish another book, this time, revealing to the world his truth. He wrote exactly how their ideals broke him, how their obsession turned dangerous at one point, and how he finally managed to cope with everything. The hideous truth so beautifully written it became the top seller, critically acclaimed despite being extremely offensive. People didn't know how to react to it – they wanted to criticize him for taking their 'kind attention' as an attack, but couldn't because it had become apparent what they did wrong. They wanted to criticize him for leading the bad life he did, but it was pointless because Haneul clearly admitted he did wrong. The adults were left speechless, and Haneul got his revenge and freedom back.
That was, until the teenagers mistook his writing as an act of rebellion and idolized him instead. But it didn't matter anymore. He didn't care. In fact, Yoo Haneul stopped caring and trying to fit in a few years back at the age of fifteen.
By the age of eighteen, his walls were strong enough nothing and nobody mattered anymore except himself.
At the age of nineteen, his controversial book got him a scholarship to pursue his study in Linguistic in one of the top universities in Seoul. Yoo Haneul grabbed the opportunity without giving it any further thoughts. Despite what everyone would say about the situation - that the university used him to get attention, the talented young writer knew he deserved it.
He had a year left before college and used that last year to build his name and prepare himself to be a successful writer. He had a long way to go but he knew better than to let fate play itself. He knew no preparation is enough preparation. And he knew nothing lasts forever.
And at the age of twenty, Yoo Haneul met the one who would finally break down his walls...
…an alpha named Jung Sangcheol.