Chapter 3:

The Blossoming Friendships

Peach's jaw dropped. Beside her, Ivy began to laugh hard, banging her tyre on the floor.

"Oh bloody hell!" Evie cried out, her sentence tangled with laughter, and Peach could faintly decode what she was saying. "That poor truck!" Ivy and Evie kept laughing, and slowly the ambience of the party returned. Peach tried to translate what her thoughts were, until finally:

"It is not pistachio! It is wasabi!" Peach cried in disbelief.

Ivy screamed through her tears, still having seizures.

"Well, he's American." Evie said thoughtfully, reverting to her habit of swinging everything to a positive angle. "The poor chap's probably just a little culture-confused. Like telling foreigners about black-pudding…is he leaking oil?"

All at once, the three girls perked their heads up to see the commotion.

"I'm sure McQueen vill be so impressed vith that," Ivy put in, but her words were mangled by her hysterical laughter and nobody could make much sense of them.

"That is…disturbing…" Peach said at a length, turning away. She was not much in the mood for laughing. "Is he in Lightening McQueen's team?"

"Yes, he is. I think they're his friends from Radiator Springs," Evie informed.

"Radiator Springs?"

"Some place in the countryside of America. I'm not too keen on American geography, I'm afraid. Nigel told me about it, and he didn't know about it until another racer told him and so on, and so forth." Evie added. Ivy began to look around frantically, her laughing seizures appearing to have calmed down now. "You okay, Ivy?" Evie asked. Ivy nodded.

"Ya…just…looking…" She replied, having a few quick searches before giving up.

"Here come our brothers," Peach sighed a breath of relief. Shu and Nigel rolled down towards them, and Peach felt much better to see a more familiar face nearby. Evie waved enthusiastically.

"Hi bro!"

"Hello there ol' bird." Nigel smiled, stopping beside Evie. Shu wedged himself between Evie and Peach. Shu and Peach exchanged a silent greeting, smiling.

"Nigel! Shu! I finally get to meet you two!" Ivy beamed happily, startling Shu. Nigel chuckled, amused.

"W-Who are you?" Shu asked slowly, edging away from the sudden appearance of the Motorama female.

"It's very nice to meet you too, poppet…but yes, who are you flower?" Nigel questioned.

"I'm Ivy. I'm a…um…magazine-journalist."

"She is a new friend of ours," Peach added, smiling gently. Ivy smiled at Peach's comment.

"Yep!" Evie agreed, nodding. Shu pouted for a moment, and then nodded.

"This is all very good," He commented. "A friend of Peach is a friend of mine,"

"What magazine do you work for?" Nigel asked.

"Von-Clutch," Ivy said without hesitation. Nigel thought for a moment, rolling his eyes before grinning.

"I think I heard of that one, poppet, although I don't read much these days, you know, racing and all that."

Ivy emitted a nervous giggle. Peach cocked a brow and turned to Shu, who clearly was not amused with something. He was musing on something.

"Are you okay, Nii-Sama?" Peach asked silently.

"Lightning's friend…"

"I know." Peach uttered lowly.

"Well, I just think the poor chap's confused, really," Evie said, overhearing Shu's comment. Shu hummed lightly to himself, not entirely agreeing with Evie.

"Poppet," Nigel piped up, looking at a very shy Ivy. "Your voice…"

"Oh? Ya, it's German." Ivy informed, smiling. Evie's eyes lit up suddenly.

"Whoa! That's so cool! I love Germany," Evie grinned. Ivy's eyes flickered, amused.

"Vell, if you love Germany, vant to meet Max? He is a good friend of mine,"

"Do you mean Max Schnell?" Nigel asked Ivy. She nodded.

"If you are going to do that, I will be upstairs," Shu spoke. "I am going to get some…" He rolled his eyes, muttering in a badly-done American accent. "…pistachio ice-cream…" He grilled through his teeth, before driving away from the cluster of friends. Peach held her giggle. Though she doesn't like it when Shu was in a bad mood, she found his sarcastic side funny. She perfectly understood that Shu was just offended. He's that sort of guy.

"Tell me about…Max," Peach beamed, changing the subject back. She was already getting very excited of meeting new people. Everyone was so friendly. They all respected each other's background(with a few exceptions) and, just like what Nigel said, they were all like a family, even if it has already been a few hours.

"Ahh, yes, smashing racer that chap is. Smart too," Nigel said. "He made himself lighter so he could race faster,"

"Interesting," Evie smiled.

"That is clever. How did he do that?" Peach asked.

"He simply replaced his chassis with carbon-fibre," Nigel informed, as if it was obvious.

"That makes sense. The lighter you are, the faster you can travel," Peach beamed, and Nigel nodded.

"That is right poppet,"

"Speak of the devil," Ivy grinned. Nigel, Evie and Peach looked up from their conversation. Ivy used her tyre to direct their gaze. Somewhere beyond them, four racers huddled together, chatting. One was Carla, a bright blue and green le motor prototype who had the prettiest features. She was laughing at what Rip was saying. Rip appeared to be the typical 'always-happy' kind of guy, with bright acid-green eyes and a bright orange paintjob to suit his colourful attitude. They were also with a blue and white French Rally-Race car, Raoul, who was chatting with Rip and agreed on something with Max. Max was a Sedan, the paintjob of a soft-black. It was then he noticed the huddle of cars looking at him, and Evie was caught in a trance of his powerful blue eyes.

Nigel nudged Evie.

"Number four," He told her. Evie's eyes searched up Max for a time, speechless, her hood tinted with a shade of soft pink from shyness. Peach smirked, seeing this as a perfect opportunity to get back at Evie for her comments about Francesco. She mentally made notes about Evie's reaction.

"Oh, I see a connection!" Ivy grinned darkly. Nigel raised his brow and waved a tyre in front of her eyes, startling Evie back into reality.

"H-Huh?" Evie blinked for a moment, and turned to see the three cars staring at her with smirks. Ivy began to snicker, and Nigel had a glint in his eyes that Evie clearly knew what he was thinking. "Oh, shut it!" She blushed, turning away, embarrassed.

"Oh calm down, ol' bird," Nigel laughed. "We're only teasing and having a chortle,"

Max saw the flustering car, and grinning, he turned to his other fellow racers, and indicated to them that he was going. Carla, Raoul and Rip nodded. Ivy's eyes lit up when she saw Max making their way.

"Max! Guten Tag!" Ivy called out, her English tongue suddenly vanishing.

"Guten Tag, Ivy!" Max grinned happily. Evie, Peach and Nigel stared in confusion as they watched to two German cars greet each other with thick German accents. "Tuie geht's?"

"Mir geht's gut, danke!" Ivy chuckled. She opened her mouth to speak but realised that all of the cars were staring at Max and Ivy. They both stopped for a moment.

"Hello," Max spoke after a time, his strong German accent sophisticated. At that point, Evie jumped and hid behind Nigel. Max smiled at the cute reaction, but his attention caught onto Peach. For a split second, he had mistaken her as Shu. "You are Shu's sister, ya?" He asked her. Peach nodded.

"Yes. I am."

Max smiled.

"You are fery lucky to have such a strong brother like Shu Todoroki," Max commented. Peach smiled.

"Thank you so very much," She beamed, bowing down. "It is a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Schnell."

"Please. Call me Max!" Max gave out a fog-horn laugh. Nigel chuckled and turned to the German racer.

"Max, old bean! I haven't seen you in ages! How have you been old chum?" Nigel greeted happily.

"It has been too long, Nigel!" Max agreed, and the two males laughed. Ivy and Peach exchanged smiles, adoring Evie's reaction, who remained hidden behind Nigel. Max's eyes caught on Evie, and he smiled, almost lovingly at her. "Vat a beautiful girlfriend you have,"

An awkward silence fell between the cars. Nigel stared at Max. Peach and Ivy blinked, slowly staring at Max and Evie went pale. Max saw the reactions, and instantly knew he said something wrong. It was then Ivy burst out laughing, again.

"On no, ol' Chum! This isn't my girlfriend!" Nigel corrected him frantically. "I'm sort of a bachelor as it were. This is my little sister, Evie,"

Evie slowly approached Max, and blushed brightly. Her eyes locked with his.

"I-It's nice to meet you…" She managed to say.

Max felt his hood heat up quickly from shame.

"Um…ya…of course…how silly of me!" He cleared his throat. "You are still beautiful!"

"How kind of you to say such a thing to Francesco!" A voice burst out from behind Peach. Peach felt her chassis freeze to have realised whose voice that belonged to.

"Good evening, Francesco!" Nigel smiled in his permanent, pleasant attitude. Francesco was smirking as he rolled past Peach slowly, eyeing her up and down for a time before facing Nigel.

"Buona sera, Nigel!" Francesco greeted, his strong Italian accent like music to Peach, and she couldn't understand why. She looked away.

"Hello," Max said, though his eyes harden. Like many other racers, he was envious over Francesco. Francesco saw it, and he smirked cruelly, amused.

"How are you, chap?" Nigel asked. Francesco's smirk softened. He didn't get the same reaction from Nigel as he did with many racers, but he respected him, as Nigel had always respected him. He opened his mouth to reply, but stopped as he noticed something. He faced Peach, his eyes sparkled with a sinister look.

"Where is your brother?"

"He has…gone to get something to eat," Peach muttered under her breath, her mouth becoming dry. Max and Ivy looked at each other, exchanging smirks. They both enjoyed the drama between the two cars already. Evie saw Peach fighting between two worlds. Nigel was oblivious.

"Ahh…he is-a gone, then?" Francesco asked, his voice much more gentle but menacing. He leaned close to Peach, and she felt like a tiny prey cornered by a predator. She stared at his heavenly-hazel eyes.

"Yes…Francesco-Sama…" She whispered. Finally, Evie came to her rescue.

"So, Francesco, what are you doing here?" She suddenly burst out. Francesco paused for a second, before facing Evie and smiled one of his trademark grins.

"Ohh, you know, talking and being amazing," Evie giggled, and when Francesco turned back to Peach, she rolled her eyes, seeing her plan failing. Max got bored of Peach and Francesco and looked up to Evie, smiling happily to himself. "Take a good look at Francesco now. Once the race begins, you will see only a blur."

"Okay…" Peach said at a length, unsure how to respond to such a comment. Francesco chuckled lowly, shuffling his smooth black tyres on the ground before her, almost advertising his open-wheels at her. She must admit, they were attractive to look at.

"Yeah, and that 'Caoi McQueen' written on ya backside," Evie uttered. Francesco snapped a look at Evie.

"Si, and-a that too," He said, his voice trailing away.

"So Francesco, what do you think of the new race and its three courses?" Nigel asked Francesco. Francesco seemed pleased to have all of the attention aimed at him. He chuckled, his eyes flickering from Peach to Nigel as he spoke.

"There is-a so much beautiful scenery to drive through. It-a gives Francesco something to enjoy after he's pulled so far ahead of his competitors,"

"Of course! Japan, Italy and England." Nigel beamed. "There is truly no place like home."

Peach looked up and turned to Francesco.

"Italy? Is that where you come from, Francesco-Sama?"

"Si, si. Francesco grew up racing on that track. He could win it blindfolded. But…" He gave her a seductive smirk. "…that would not be fair to the women who love to see Francesco's beautiful eyes."

Beautiful eyes, Peach agreed. Francesco had a striking face, his features perfectly symmetrical and flawless, possessed of a strange androgynous beauty; and his irises were of a brown so beautiful Peach felt her chassis soften the moment she saw them. It was as if Francesco was every woman's dream incarnated. But his eyes held something almost deceiving, and it made Peach not fall as far as many others. The idea of Shu seeing the chemistry sparking between them would be like blasphemy.

"Uh-Huh…" Peach cocked a brow, clearly enticed by Francesco's gaze.

"Francesco," Ivy piped up suddenly. "How fast are you?"

Francesco gave Ivy a look that clearly meant: 'You do not know?!'

"When Francesco was-a very young, he broke the speed-limit. They still cannot repair it." He smirked, and everyone around him laughed. Even Peach.

"Hey lady!" A voice yelled throughout the room. The cluster of cars looked up to see McQueen's friend, the Tow-Truck, waving eagerly to a deep-purple car. Almost in shame, the purple car darted off as the Tow-Truck hollered for her name. Ivy frowned and Francesco sniggered cruelly.

"McQueen's best friend…" He snickered callously, as if anyone needed informing.

"I have to get off somewhere…" Ivy said suddenly, making everyone turn to her.

"Already?" Max asked, sad. Ivy shook her head.

"Don't vorry. I vill come back." Ivy chuckled. As she drove off, she added: "Make sure Francesco doesn't touch Peach's bumper," She laughed and she was gone.

"Alright Poppet. See you soon!" Nigel called back. Then he paused, blinked for a moment to have realised what she said. "Wait-What?!"

Evie rolled her eyes.

"You are so slow," She smirked at her brother.

"Getting old, Nigel?" Max teased, making Nigel playfully glare at him.

"I'm not old!" Nigel pouted. "Just tired…"

"Uh-Huh. Yes. Yes, brother, we believe you…" Evie smirked darkly.

Peach giggled and turned to Francesco, who was acidly glaring at someone. She followed his gaze to see he was watching McQueen talking to the Tow-Truck.


Francesco faced her, slowly, like a dream.


She flustered for a moment, before clearing her throat.

"Y-You have a very nice…" Her voice trailed, as her eyes fell from his eyes to his open-wheels again. Realising what was happening, she shook her head and looked at his eyes again, blushing. A smirk tugged at the end of Francesco's mouth, amused. "-ACCENT!" She finally finished, dropping her voice at the last second. Francesco chuckled.

"Ah, grazi Bella. Your accent is-a very appealing too, no?"

"Ha! I bet Peach is feasting her eyes on those open-wheel, Francesco!" Max piped up, tapping his tyre with Francesco's tyre. Francesco's grin widened.

"Si, Francesco, he-a get's that a lot, his open-wheels attract a lot of attention." He chuckled. "Women respect a car that has-a nothing to hide," He added, looking at Nigel and Max for male support. They agreed with him. Evie smirked at Peach, who gave her a glare Evie knew perfectly well what she was saying.

Shu was making his way down. He felt much more better, talking to his fellow Japanese fans and residents. Eating Wasabi and drinking Sake had calmed him down. But the moment he saw Francesco unpleasantly close to Peach, his peace was tainted and he returned to his black-mood, speeding off towards them.

"I am starving!" Max exclaimed loudly. "I'm going to eat. You guys coming?"

"What a smashing idea, chap! I'm quite famished," Nigel agreed.

"Same here," Evie said.

"Me too," Peach smiled.

"Francesco agrees! Staring at a bella such as Peach has got me feeling-a quite hungry," Francesco and Peach looked at each other, smiled, and the moment Francesco turned around, he saw the dark face of Shu glaring back at him. Francesco didn't seem to flinch.

"Nii-Sama!" Peach smiled, glad to see him again.

"Ahh, signore Shu. I was-a wondering where you had-a gotten to," Francesco said with a cold smile. Shu said nothing.

"Let's go, poppets!" Nigel said, and together, they all made their way upstairs, following Max and Nigel, who were the most eager to eat. Francesco smirked darkly to himself, and went to drive behind Peach, but Shu caught his gaze, and blocked him. But he heard Francesco snigger mockingly beside him and sped around him, driving beside Peach instead. Shu tried hard to contain her temper. As they got upstairs, Francesco glanced at his wing-mirror, seeing Shu frowning unhappily behind him; Francesco chuckled nastily to himself, getting very close to Peach, provoking Shu. Shu growled lowly to himself, wishing to the Gods he could attack Francesco right now…

Max turned to Peach.

"Peach, vat does Sake taste like?"

Peach blinked.

"I am not sure, Max. Perhaps we can try it together?" Peach suggested, and Max's eyes became alive.


Peach smiled, relieved to find an excuse to move away from the tension crackling between Francesco and Shu. She rushed to the counter with Max and began to order in Japanese. Max watched her, amazed and dumbfounded of her sudden change of dialect.

Francesco and Shu engaged in a long staring match. Finally, Francesco broke the silence.

"What is-a wrong, signore? I'm only finding your little sister…very interesting…" Francesco said coldly.

Shu stared at Francesco sharply for a moment; then his eyes returned to Peach and Max.

"Yes, but you are getting a little too close for my liking, Bernoulli…"

Francesco smirked to himself, satisfied that his needling had at last provoked a reaction. Francesco then replied in a low, menacing voice:

"Francesco admires your strength, Signore Shu. You are a champion. You, like-a many of the racers, are undefeated in their racing league. In that way they are inexperience, like babies. And so, Francesco will make them cry…like babies…"

Shu bit his lip to hold back his retort. Unwilling to rise to the bait, he turned from Francesco and stormed away from him in disgust. His teeth gritted behind his lips as he heard Francesco's soft laughter follow him.

"I say, what's wrong with those two?" Nigel asked, watching as Shu stormed away from Francesco. Evie punched Nigel's tyre with her own, and he gave out a moan.

"It's those strange rice-cakes!" Max blurted out suddenly, catching Evie's and Nigel's attention.

"Sushi…" Peach corrected him softly. Max shook his head impatiently.

"They are all the same! I'll have some!" Max exclaimed, and began banging the counter with his tyre, catching many strange glimpses from the Japanese staff. Nigel looked up to see Ivy returning to them, but his heart dropped to see her looking sad.

"Poppet, you okay? You look down."

It caught Peach's and Max's attention, and they both turned around, seeing Ivy stopping beside Nigel. Francesco and Shu looked at her.

"My…" She paused, and sighed deeply. "My brother…left me,"

"Left you?!" Nigel gasped. Peach stared in horror. Shu and Max gasped and even Francesco looked a little shocked. "That's awful! What kind of brother does that to his sister?"

There was a long pause.

"Do you have anywhere to go?" Peach asked suddenly. Ivy looked up and her frown deepened.

"No, not really. I usually stay vith my brother." Ivy informed. Peach pondered for a moment, and then she smiled at a thought. She turned to Shu, and already he guessed what she was going to say.

"Nii-Sama. Can Ivy-Chan stay with us please? Just for the night. Until her brother collects her, please?"

Shu looked down at Peach, who was already giving him her typical doe-eyed face. It made him smile a little.

"I do not see any harm in that. Of course she can. If she wishes," Shu replied, and Peach almost tackled his front tyre as she hugged him, nuzzling her fender against his.

"Thank you, Nii-Sama!" She beamed happily. The idea of having new friends and having her first sleep-over seemed like a terrific idea. Ivy smiled.

"Thank you so fery much, Shu." She said to him. "If Evie joins, ve can a slumber-party and talk about boys!" She laughed. The idea enlightened Evie, and she turned to Nigel.

"Can I, brother?" She asked. Nigel chuckled, assuming this was going to happen.

"Of course, dearest. That's a smashing idea," Nigel grinned. Francesco smirked darkly to himself. His idea of a girl-riddled slumber-party was a little more explicit than reality. He actually felt envious over Shu. Max chuckled, and returned back to his food. Instantly, he began to stuff countless piece of sushi into his mouth hungrily, quickly. Evie stared at him, and giggled, driving next to him.

"Are you enjoying that, by any chance, Schnell?" Evie smiled. Max turned to her and nodded quickly.

"Ah, yes! This is fery good. How do they do it?"

"It is made out of raw fish…" Shu uttered from the distance, and the idea of raw fish made Max spit the sushi out suddenly. Shu glared at him in disgust. Max had his tongue hanging out of his mouth by the time he had finished spitting out what he took in and playfully glared at Evie. Evie laughed and nudged Max.

"Ahh, suck it up. Nothing wrong with a bit of fish…even if it is raw," Evie commented.

"Shu ate a lot of fish when he was young. He still does now," Peach beamed. Shu nodded.

"That is very true,"

"Me and Nigel eat a lot of fish too…mind you, it's not raw," Evie added, giggling.

"Si, si…more like-a fried to oblivion," Francesco prompted coolly.

"Hey! Don't knock it 'till you try it. I don't make fun of your culture's food now, do I?"

"You do not eat it raw? How do you eat it?" Peach asked, her curiosity about England's dishes getting the better of her. Even Shu leaned in for the answer.

"Ahh, we have it battered. Oh, with lovely chips." Nigel answered proudly. Max blinked.

"…vith a hammer?" Max asked stupidly.

"No, Max, with a fryer," Evie corrected him. "Like you do with schnitzel…" She paused, and the thought of food made her smile. "Mmm…schnitzel,"

Shu shuddered violently at the thought of fried fish.

"I think I will stick with raw fish," Peach commented.

"I agree, Onee-chan," Shu said to her.

"Nigel, can I ask you something please?" Ivy asked, her voice becoming shy. Nigel nodded.

"Yes. What is it, poppet?"

"Can I touch your moustache?" She asked slowly. Nigel cocked a brow. For a moment, he was unsure how to answer, but he smiled gently.

"Sure, poppet," he chuckled, and carefully, Ivy tapped her tyre gingerly against the black grille moustache at the front of Nigel's fenders. The feel of it made her giggle. Evie saw this and nudged Peach, indicating to her the scene and the two girls giggled.

"It tickles," Ivy laughed.

"Yes, I know it does, poppet," Nigel grinned, brushing it against her playfully. Ivy squealed into a giggle-fit. Evie and Peach smirked at each other. Max was too busy inspecting the sushi on his dish. Shu and Francesco looked slightly disturbed by the public display of affection. Finally, Max gave the sushi one last sniff, before pushing it away from him, rejecting it and rolled up close to Evie. Evie blushed slightly.

"Is it really that bad, Max?" Evie smirked and Max nodded.

"How was the sake, Onee-Chan?" Shu asked, remembering something. Peach pulled a face of disgust.

"I do not understand how you could drink that, Nii-Sama," Peach replied. "Max nearly died from the taste, and it burnt my throat. I will stick with water and green-tea,"

"Suit yourself," Shu said, his eyes gently smiling at her. Ivy yawned loudly.

"Vell, I can say something. I'm beat,"

"I agree, Ivy," Max replied.

"Me too," Evie yawned slightly.

"We all have a big day ahead of us. Perhaps its best we all get a decent sleep," Nigel suggested.

"Vell, I guess this is goodbye until tomorrow." Max said, turning to Evie instantly. "I shall see you tomorrow, Evie," He added softly, his voice enchanting to her. Evie blushed deeply.

"Erm…Y-Yes, okay…" She tried to speak, and caught Nigel smirking at her. Evie fumed.

"Don't you dare!" She hissed under her breath, glaring at him. Max chuckled and made his way out of the building, waving goodbye to his new-found friends.

"He does seem to fancy you there, poppet," Nigel said, his grin becoming mischievous.

"Oh, shut it, butthead!" Evie hissed, but she giggled.

"Si! And now, Francesco shall-a take his leave." Francesco turned to Peach, his eyes seductive onto her. "Francesco will see you tomorrow, la mia piccolo pesca," With that, Francesco drove around Peach, looked at Shu for a moment and gave him a dark grin. Then, Francesco smacked his tyre onto Peach's bumper, startling her. Shu saw this and revved his engine boisterously, clearly angry, but Francesco drove away without a care in the world. The other party-guests stared at Shu, startled by his monstrous engine revs. Peach hurried over to Shu, silently hushing him to calm down. He didn't look at her, but she parked in front of him, pitifully covering the view of Francesco away from Shu. Evie's jaw dropped to see what Francesco did. Nigel, as usual, was oblivious.

"Vell, at least vee got something to talk about in our slumber party," Ivy chuckled, but was soon silent by Shu's blazing glare. Peach watched Francesco go, and waved him goodbye shyly. Francesco was an enigma. Why did she obsess him so? And it was a handsome face, he was staggeringly attractive. Perhaps this, too, contributed to the way she felt about him. There was no denying that he had a physical magnetism that was far and above anything she had felt before; but he was so rude to Shu, and she knew that beneath the surface lurked a mind that was much less handsome.

Francesco skidded by the doorway and looked back, his eyes locking with Peach's eyes, and he soon found himself into a trance he had never entered before. Her eyes held a beauty he had never seen before. She was interesting to him. With that, Francesco smirked and blew a kiss to Peach.

Peach felt her entire hood burn, and she slowly reached out, as if catching the kiss.