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"There are so many boats here,"
Edith thought, lying beside the porthole of the poop deck. She glanced over to see the fleets that were coming and going on the Redwater River.
Since she entered the Western Region, she noticed that many strange Concrete Boats were sailing on the river with no wind sail, making the stream a very crowded one. And according to shipmaster's introduction, they were called paddle steamers. They relied on steam power to march forward and their speed could not be influenced by the wind. It was said that even if you sail upstream, they were faster than the sailing ship. A paddle steamer usually marched in front of other boats on the river with a string of black smoke lagging behind. No one could clearly explain how the steam pushed the big wooden wheel on both sides of the boat.
While one thing was certain, these things were made in the City of Neverwinter.
Edith secretively made some estimates that almost every hour there would be one paddle steamer passing by. If it was cargo that these ships carried, then there was no doubt that the amount of material the City of Neverwinter was importing would be astonishing. She learned from businessmen that a city could not be bigger than its ability to import materials. You could get a rough idea about how prosperous this city was and how many business opportunities it could offer, if you just stayed for a couple of days on the city's main road. You would even know what the most popular goods of the city were if you were good at communication.
Obviously, the Redwater River was the most important main road for the Western Region.
And watching this busy stream way, she believed all the propaganda she had seen in the king's city might be more than just Roland, His Majesty's brag.
In such a short time, Roland had integrated the Western Region into one new city whose permanent population and commercial trade had outperformed the old king's city. Such an outstanding heir to the throne actually had a bad reputation of being ignorant and stubborn... Thinking of these rumors, Edith was more interested in Roland Wimbledon.
"Miss Conrad, are you observing the boat again?" The door was pushed open, a well-dressed, brown-haired, handsome man walked in. "Want to go out to breathe some fresh air? You must be bored of staying here all the time?"
"No, this place is nice." Edith stood up and nodded to him. "Thank you for your hospitality."
"You don't need to thank me," he laughed and said, "I'm lucky to have such a beautiful lady's company."
Edith had heard too much of these kinds of compliments, but she still replied with a delightful look, "Without your help, I'm afraid I may have had to crash with the cargo and refugees."
"Of course I couldn't stand by and let this kind of things happen," the man sat opposite and said. "There's no one jeweler who's willing to let jewelry be covered with dust, and you're just like jewelry to me."
This man was Victor, the owner of the Everspring boat. He was a jeweler from the king's city. After their original boat was burnt, Edith quickly picked out this two-master ship from all the ships that traveled to the Western Region. It was not a passenger boat, neither did it accept any employment. It was Victor's private ship. But for the Pearl of the Northern Region, as long as the ship-owner was a male, everything was fine.
She pretended to be a noble lady from the Northern Region, who came to the Western Region to find her missing relatives. With a couple of words, she made Victor feel sorry for her and invite her aboard the Everspring voluntarily. Compared with the common miniature sailing boats and freighters, the Everspring was spacious and bright, with a comfortable passenger cabin in the poop deck. Besides, it did not have the odors of the rotten wood that were caused by the longtime aquatic travel. Victor even arranged two servants for her, without charging a single gold royal from her.
Of course, the only price she needed to pay was to endure Victor's visits from time to time, showing his generosity and concern, but for Edith, who had been good at running around the circles of the noble, it was just a piece of cake, as she had already gotten used to it. And if he was good enough, she would enjoy the feeling of controlling him.
"Although these ships can sail without the push of the wind, it's all too crude," Victor said and poured a cup of black tea for himself. "I've boarded a paddle steamer and carefully observed it, it's noisy and shaking when sailing... it may be a good choice for transporting goods, but not the best choice for a long journey."
"Of course it won't be as comfortable as the Everspring," Edith laughed and said, "but why do I feel that these boats just popped out in a night? There weren't such kinds of boats in the Western Region before, I suppose?"
"Yes, you're right. They just sprang up overnight," Victor twitched his lips and added, "I used to travel for businesses to Longsong Stronghold and there weren't these kinds of strange things back then. After just a winter, they're everywhere now."
"Making 20 or 30 paddle steamers in one winter?" Edith thought in surprise. As the heir of the Kant Family, she knew exactly what the meaning of it was. Since a big city needed to import a lot of material, the city expansion was limited by the ability of its transportation ability for material. These kinds of non-sailing boats which could be produced so quickly were obviously good to improve the city's transportation ability, as they could continually transport food and commodities from everywhere to the Western Region. Given that, the expansion speed of the City of Neverwinter would naturally be beyond everyone's imagination.
As for the noises and shaking, it was not worthy of mention.
"Look, Miss Conrad, no need to worry about those ugly Concrete Boats. I have something more interesting here. It may help you to kill the time." Victor called the maid beside him, whispering a few words in her ear and then she nodded, turned around and left the room.
"Something that can match with your beauty," he gloated and said, "it's also my old profession."
The maid quickly came back to the poop deck with an exquisite album in her hand. Victor spread it out in front of Edith. "Which one do you like?"
There were many dazzling crystal pictures on the parchment, which were definitely lifelike, with fine brushwork and bright colors. Obviously, the painter that made this album was an expert in doing his job.
"Are these... gems?"
"Precisely, they're rough stones." Victor explained to her patiently. "I set the prices in accordance with the album's standard when I purchased them. Compared with the polished jewelry, the rough stones have their own charms... If you're interested in any kind of rough stones, please let me know. Of course, if you prefer the polished jewelry, I could ask some jewelers to use these rough stones to make some jewelry for you when I get back to the king's city."
Nothing original, Edith just flipped over the album and then gave it back to him. "Thanks, but no."
Victor was surprised when he got the book. "So aren't you interested in these at all?"
"My relatives are missing. I don't have the mood to pick these luxury gifts. Please forgive me," Edith answered in a low voice. If she promised him now, he would pester her when they arrived in the City of Neverwinter, which would be a hindrance. Although most of the females would give in to these sparkling things, she would rather appreciate the steam engine that drove the paddle steamer. Compared with the jewelry which only spread among the nobles, those were much more valuable.
Soon after Victor left, there came a series of deep and rich ringing sounds from the direction of the bow... It seemed that a big fleet was about to leave the harbor.
Looking to the harbor, Edith could see the bulk head line becoming clearer and clearer in front of her.