Naoto has decided he wants to try ditching his frames for contacts, but after failing to get them in the previous night, he gives up. When Hayase spots the box, she immediately volunteers to put them in for him. A few “is it in yet?” double entendres later, and Naoto is seeing the world—and Hayase—clearly without frames for the first time. When Hayase puts on his frames and flusters him, we learn he’ll do his glasses-straightening tic regardless of whether he’s wearing them.
Ditching the frames means he’s able to do more energetic activities, like skiing. As luck would have it, he and his guy friends are at the same ski slope as Hayase and her friends. The difference is, Hayase and her friends are much better at skiing and snowboarding. That hardly matters to Hayase, who invites her senpai to join him, aweing his friends by being so friendly with one of the “popular girls”.
But again, Naoto is bad, even on the beginner slope Hayase normally wouldn’t bother with. That said, she relishes the opportunity to teach him, and when he steers himself into the sides, creating a sequence of Snow Naotos, she doesn’t laugh but shows genuine concern for his progress, which is slow and, at least to him, not very noticable despite her pointers.
That night, when Naoto and his friends expect to be done with skiing, they spot the popular girls (and guys) going out for night skiing. Again Hayase invites him to join her, but he passes, citing sore legs. Hayase is clearly disappointed but respects his choice and leaves. Gamou and Yoshi then gang up on him, asking him if he’s sure, and he explains he doesn’t want to slow Hayase down from having fun. The other girls assure him that Hayase going at her own pace is not the point.
Naoto suits up and heads out, surprised he’s suddenly gotten into something like skiing, which he wouldn’t expect of himself had he not met Hayase. As he’s practicing, a younger skiier loses control and careens towards a tree. Naoto forgets all his hang-ups and skis beautifully in order to catch the guy before he injures himself.
Hayase saw him do this, and I’m sure she thought it was pretty cool. She’s also surprised to hear him ask her upfront if she’ll keep teaching him, which is, of course, what she wants to do on that slope more than anything. When she notices he’s always looking down at his feet, she skis a bit ahead of him and tells him to keep his eyes on her.
A backlit Hayase, with her black hair shimmering and snow-dappled trees behind her, makes for an undoubtedly arresting sight. Unfortunately, Naoto is overconfident the next morning, and when Hayase tells her friends to watch how far he’s progressed, he faceplants into the side once more.
Back at school, Sana tells Naoto that she got into art school, which was totally expected but something for which Naoto congratulates her nonetheless. Sana then asks her kohai what he plans to do, and he says with a level of confidence that surprises her that he’s going to try for art school too. She chalks up this confidence to “the cat-eared girl’s” influence.
Naoto denies this, but in his head, he looks back at the year he’s known and hung out with Hayase, and concludes that she really has influenced him. But even after all this time, there’s still so much he doesn’t know about her, and wants to know, like what plans she might have for the future.
Maybe he can apply his newfound assertiveness to keep cutting through her teasing smokescreen and ask her about serious things like that. I think if he does, he’ll find she’ll be quite happy to tell him.