Kotetsu’s soul mark is a small series of words, neatly written in impeccable, clear handwriting on the back of his shoulder. “You shouldn’t overdo it,” it reads. When he’s young and his mother is just starting to realize what she’s gotten herself into, she laughs about it.
He doesn’t really understand the gravity of the words, or soul marks in general, until he’s twelve, and Muramasa and his mother are arguing in the kitchen over Muramasa’s mark. His is sloppy, indistinct, of a very light tint that made it hard to see despite it being visible at most any time on his collarbone, but only if you know where to look. It is vague, practically illegible, and short.
Muramasa says, “I don’t care! I don’t care what the mark says! I love her!”
His mother’s voice is very calm when she says, “She’ll break your heart. She’s not the one, Muramasa.”
“So?” Muramasa demands. “How do you know that? Because some scribble on my neck says so? It could mean anything!” He adds, in the silence that follows, “Plenty of people marry others who don’t match their soul mark. They live happy lives. I will too.”
“I only hope so,” their mother says calmly.
He doesn’t, and a year after they were married and Kotetsu proudly stood at his side during the whole ceremony, eyeing the way his older brother constantly fidgeted with his collar and being sure it covered his mark, Muramasa returns broken-hearted and no longer believing in love. It breaks Kotetsu’s heart too, and he loses a portion of the trust he has in the world outside his mark. He suddenly feels trapped by it. Muramasa loved his wife, but she wasn’t the one, and now their family ate dinner with a cold silence between a grieving Muramasa and their mother. What if he falls in love only to know it’s doomed? He’s never been good at playing by other people’s rules. He thinks solemnly in the silence at dinner that he’ll probably end up just like Muramasa, end up hating love.
Kotetsu meets Tomoe Amamiya when he’s sixteen – well, he meets the idea of her, at least.
She’s the class representative, poised and beautiful, and Kotetsu doesn’t pay too much attention to her. She’s another classmate, and he has never spoken with her before. She was a busybody, always charging into new things, always speaking in a soft tone to their other classmates. He knows a little bit about her, like her favorite color is blue and she loves Heroes.
The best he, personally, has ever gotten from her is a scowl, however, while he sits waiting for detention after another fight.
After one particularly brutal fight trying to keep some punk’s fists away from one of the underclassmen (which he won), he is tossed into one of the cloth chairs outside the main office of the high school and told to wait.
Through the dull ringing in his ears, he hears the bell above the office door jingle as someone walks in. Blinking open one eye, he sees Tomoe Amamiya looking at him, a bit taken aback. Does he really look that bad? It must be after school by now, because she’s no longer in uniform; instead, she wears a faded Mr. Legend t-shirt, and he would smile at that if his mouth didn’t hurt so much.
She places a manila folder on the desk and begins to turn around to walk out, and then pauses. Her eyes close for a brief moment, and then she picks up a box of tissues from the counter and walks over to him. He’s too shocked to ask what she’s doing as she sits down beside him with the box. She takes out a tissue and begins to dab at the blood dried beneath his bottom lip. He probably makes it a little easier when his mouth drops open.
Tomoe gives him a little smile. “You shouldn’t overdo it,” she says to him, quietly.
Kotetsu’s heart skips a beat. His mouth feels dry. This is his part now, right? This is where he’s supposed to say something cool because it’s probably tattooed on Tomoe’s skin somewhere (if he’s lucky).
He says, “Mr. Legend is so cool.” It comes out more like a garbled mess, given his swollen lip.
Kotetsu simultaneously wishes he could kiss her and wishes the floor would break open and the earth would swallow him up.
But Tomoe just smiles and says, “That explains a lot,” followed by a gentle chuckle, and continues to help clean the blood off his face.
After Tomoe dies, Kotetsu forgets about the soul mark. He forgets about the words, because there’s no point anymore. He found his soulmate, and then he lost her. That part of his life was over, and the words served as nothing but a harsh reminder of a person he had to leave in the past. He thought about going to a tattoo artist and getting something over it, but every time he thinks about making an appointment he suddenly gets nostalgic and can’t do it.
He’s always careful at work to hide the words. He keeps his front to his coworkers when in the gym. He only showers if he’s alone and there’s no chance of anyone walking in. He doesn’t think he could handle it if they suddenly began bringing it up. He doesn’t think he could get the words out to explain why.
So he hides it, and whenever someone asks at work or in an interview, he laughs it off and says something cheesy, like, “The only thing I love is saving people.” They all think it’s cute; he feels like he just received that bloody beating in high school all over again, and this time there’s nothing but alcohol and Mr. Legend reruns to dull the pain.
Kotetsu has gone through a rough streak with Hero TV. He was beginning to be seen as the weathered older hero, not the energetic troublemaking hero he had started out as.
So when he arrives at the monorail to stop the robbers on the train, he thinks it’s just another opportunity to boost his public image, save some lives, and go home victorious (for once). So he ignores Agnes when she tells him to stop for a commercial and he focuses on the robbers. He ignores the words seared into his back that tell him he shouldn’t be doing things like taking a train head-on.
It goes badly. It always does. But he keeps on fighting, because you don’t really have another option when villains have it out for you and people’s lives are in danger.
Then his powers run out, and he’s falling.
Suddenly he remembers Tomoe, and he remembers the words, “You shouldn’t overdo it,” and all he can think is at least he’ll be with her again.
Something hard catches him from below, pushing him back up and then lowering him slowly to the ground. He’s faintly aware, as the adrenaline fades, that he’s being carried like some sort of princess, not a powerful NEXT who regularly protects Stern Bild.
They hit the ground, and a face masked in metal turns to look at his. Pinkish-red, almost bunny-ear shaped things extend from either side of his head. Kotetsu doesn’t notice many details away from that masked face, because there’s a large metal man with glowing blue eyes in a black and pink suit carrying him princess-style.
A man’s voice, muffled slightly by the mask, informs him, “You shouldn’t overdo it.”
Then he drops Kotetsu unceremoniously onto the ice.