Whether by sheer chance or calculation as a result of her enduring affection for him, Takagi has been finding ways to progressively inch (or rather senchimetoru) a little bit closer to him. Her slow but steady pace exhibits sensitivity to the fact he’s still pretty childish.
While he’s just not quite at the stage of adolescence where he’s willing to be openly honest about his feelings for her, the pace could also be fine for her; after all, she’s had ample opportunities to push a little harder and further, but has remained immensely patient and incremental.
Knowing his patterns and habits is one way to get closer. She knows full well he was up late watching 100% Unrequited Love, so brings in some eye drops. When he can’t get the drops in without blinking, she offers to help, and tickles him into opening his eyes.
Then they switch places, and when Yukari (who already has her suspicions about the couple) enters the classroom it sure looks like they’re about to kiss. Yukari relays this to Houjou, who has a look but sees nothing untoward; then Yukari declares it a “scoop” but Sanae and Mina correct her; if she’s not sure what she saw it can’t be a scoop.
Whoever saw Takagi and Nishikata and whatever they think they saw, Takagi doesn’t mind, even if Nishikata still does. If the whole school manages to become comfortable with them as a pair before he does, so be it!
Takagi likely anticipates another opportunity to be close with Nishikata, as they engage in an after-school game of one-on-one hide-and-seek. She correctly predicts that despite the large field and long count, Nishikata will hide close by, and sure enough, she finds him behind a pair of oil drums.
What neither of them expected was for another couple to show up: Hamaguchi and Houjou, AKA “the ‘mature’ classmate.” Nishikata and Takagi play voyeurs for a bit as the other couple interacts in a way they probably wouldn’t if others were around.
Then Takagi makes her move, telling Nishikata that if they’re caught behind those drums, it’s better if what the others are assuming is the truth. Drawing closer and closer, Nishikata finally bails out, and he and Takagi have to awkwardly say hi, while Nishikata tells them they were just playing hide-and-seek, which, while the actual truth, probably sounds like a lie to Houjou and Hamaguchi.
At this point Nishikata is ready to head home to train for future teasing, but Takagi finds what looks like a treasure map on the ground, and he’s wrapped up in another roving adventure with her. The map eventually leads them to a tree that has a pair of names carved into the trunk. Takagi presumes it was the spot where a couple had their first kiss.
Hearing that, Nishikata wants to flee again, but Takagi suggests they sit down under the tree and enjoy the shade and gentle breeze. Out in the open yet all alone in a secluded, safe place known as the site of another first kiss, it looks like as good a place as any for Takagi to attempt to solicit her and Nishikata’s first kiss.
It’s certainly on Nishikata’s mind as she draws nearer and nearer…but she whips out her phone and headphones instead, asking if he’ll listen to some music with her. After playing him a recording of cats fighting outside her house last night, she pops one earbud into his ear so they can listen to the song that plays over the end credits together.
Sharing earbuds may not be a first kiss, but it is another first, and another centimeter closer. To quote Nishikata: “Crap, I really can’t compare with her, can I?” Nope!