"Every man dies, not every man really lives."
– William Wallace (Braveheart)
Seeing the man, Dick immediately exclaimed his name in surprise.
On the couch sat a muscular man with his upper body bare, covered in countless scars.
Just looking at him was enough to send shivers down one's spine.
This man's name was Bruce Wayne, a billionaire who controlled massive wealth. He was also a vigilante who worked in the dark, and he was also the source of fear for criminals in Gotham.
He was Batman.
Bruce had several fresh wounds on his body, showing that he had been injured no more than three days ago, with traces of blood still coming out.
At this moment, Alfred was carefully cleaning Bruce's injuries and bandaging them.
Next to the couch lay a pile of blood-soaked bandages, obviously removed from Bruce's body not long ago.
Alfred's face was filled with concern and helplessness. He seemed to have countless words of advice to say, but ultimately, he didn't say anything.
His method of treating wounds was quite skilled. He quickly applied the ointment and wrapped a new bandage around it.
"When did you come back?"
Dick walked to the front of the couch and asked Bruce with concern, "These injuries look quite serious. How do you feel?"
"As a mere mortal fighting alongside gods and even leading them, I know how difficult it can be, Bruce. You better rest properly at home for a few..."
Suddenly, Bruce's voice was calm and didn't show any changes in his reactions.
"Alfred mentioned that there's been a criminal calling himself Phantom Thief active in Gotham recently, and you've been failing to capture him every time?"
At his words, Dick's face froze, and he couldn't help but show a bitter smile.
"I knew you would ask about this."
Dick nodded and admitted, "Yes, Phantom Thief is very clever. Every time I'm close to figuring out his plan, I end up falling into his trap."
"So, in these months that Phantom Thief has been active, how far have you progressed in your investigation?"
Bruce continued to ask.
"What is Phantom Thief's real name?"
Dick fell into silence.
"Phantom Thief's age?"
"...I don't know."
"What is the Phantom Thief's motive for committing crimes?"
"Appearance? Personality? Residence? Suspects?"
Faced with Dick's lack of information, Bruce's voice started to get louder.
"What have you been doing these past few months? Do you know how many crimes happen in this city every night? Do you know how many innocent people desperately need your help while you waste your time catching a petty thief!"
"When I left, I had a lot of faith in you and thought you would keep Gotham safe. But your response is that you can't even handle a thief? You even let a thief become a star in Gotham? Is this what you've accomplished?"
Bruce asked coldly.
Alfred, who was beside him, couldn't bear to watch any longer and spoke up, "Don't be too harsh on Master Richard, he's been doing a good job."
"Moreover, there's something you're not aware of. The appearance of the Phantom Thief has actually led to a drop in Gotham's overall crime rate. In some ways, his existence might be a good thing."
"Alfred, are you saying that the appearance of a criminal can make the city better? I cannot believe you would say such nonsense."
Bruce's face showed obvious disbelief.
"I'd rather believe it's the work of the GCPD."
"The Phantom Thief is not as simple as you think!"
Dick frowned and raised his voice to respond. Bruce's asking words didn't overpower Dick but instead made him want to talk back.
"The Phantom Thief is skilled in disguise and staged magic. He can change his voice without using any props or technology and is proficient in using a gun that shoots playing cards. He can also make his own flashbangs, smoke bombs, tear gas, and other non-lethal weapons. He is very good at preparing a row of tight operation plans and has strong anti-investigation capabilities."
"Bruce, you haven't seen the Phantom Thief himself, so you may not know how impressive his disguises are. Believe me, they're definitely not worse than Clayface's."
Dick looked serious.
"I have tried to track down the Phantom Thief, searching through all the surveillance footage in Gotham. At first, I was able to catch glimpses of him, but do you know what happened in the end?"
"Every time! Every time, I lose his trail halfway through! He intentionally goes to places with fewer cameras and more people, then disappears! He can change disguises multiple times in the blink of an eye! There's no way to know who he is after he changes, and even if I do find someone who matches the disguise, they always turn out not to be Phantom Thief!"
"Phantom Thief has never used his real appearance or voice. He has never left any clues at the scene—no fingerprints, no blood, no hair, no skin...nothing. I even examined the Phantom Thief's cloak I took, but it didn't give me any useful information."
"I also targeted several suspects who were most likely Phantom Thief, using surveillance, wiretapping, and even home searches. I used every available method, but in the end, none of them turned out to be Phantom Thief!"
"Bruce, the Phantom Thief hasn't killed anyone or carried out any terrorist attacks. He doesn't possess any extraordinary powers. Maybe in your eyes, he's just a petty thief who enjoys doing with performance art."
Dick said it with a serious expression.
"But you haven't seen the impact of his presence on this city. I firmly believe that he is a person with good intentions. Yes, Phantom Thief's actions are wrong, and they may lead others to imitate him, but that's exactly why we should take Phantom Thief seriously."
"He is definitely a tough opponent. My hope is to make him a part of us, not just to catch him."
Hearing Dick's words, Bruce gave him a casual glance and then said, "Have you seen the news about the 'Bat Monster' appearing on the Upper West Side?"
"I know about it. It seems like a case that Barbara is investigating."
Dick paused upon hearing this and continued, "Barbara was attacked last night, and she's currently lying in the hospital at Gotham General Hospital."
Bruce remained expressionless as he spoke.
"While you were focused on Phantom Thief, she was fighting alone against that 'Bat Monster'!"
After saying that, Bruce stood up from the couch and walked towards the door without looking back.
"Come to the Batcave, Dick. Tonight, there's only one thing you need to do—follow orders."
Leaving Alfred and Dick alone in the room.
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