It's official. No protagonist can surpass Fumi in loveability.
In the aftermath of Fumi's confession to Ah-chan, Fumi, Ah-chan, Mogii, Pon-chan, and Yassan go on a trip with Haruka to her grandfather's ryoukan during summer vacation. Haruka's older sister Orie brings her girlfriend Hinako along on the trip. This works out beautifully when Fumi passes out in the ryoukan's hot spring and, after waking up with Orie and Hinako looking after her, asks Hinako for advice about her feelings for Ah-chan.
Fumi makes it clear yet again that she deeply loves Ah-chan, and Ah-chan responds as one would hope- by suggesting that she and Fumi start going out. Fumi is simultaneously happier than she's ever been and afraid because, unlike her relationship with Yasuko, she has a lot to lose if things don't work out between her and Ah-chan.
When Pon-chan, Yassan, and Fumi are in the school library one afternoon, Pon-chan asks Fumi if she's gay. Yassan can't believe she asked that and Pon-chan backtracks and apologizes, but Fumi steadily replies that yes, she is. (What a difference from when she first came out to Ah-chan.) Because Pon-chan and Yassan genuinely care for Fumi, it doesn't make a difference to them.
Fumi and Ah-chan spend Christmas together alone at Fumi's house, with Christmas cake and a bottle of champagne. In the best scene in the book, a drunk Fumi decides to lay all of her feelings bare to Ah-chan and tell her that she's afraid that Ah-chan doesn't love her in the same way she loves Ah-chan. Ah-chan clearly loves Fumi, although the nature of her love is less clear. I'm on pins and needles waiting to see how this plays out.
This volume's "Little Women" stories are especially strong. One follows a closeted teacher from Fujigaya. The other follows a student at Fujigaya who gets bullied by her school mates after they find out she's a lesbian, and comes out to the friend who gets outraged on her behalf. Like the homophobic gossip about Hinako-sensei in volume 4, these stories establish that, despite the Fujigaya student body's tittering fascination with Sugimoto and the Class S ideal of girl-girl romance, knowing women who unabashedly like women is a different story to most of them. This reinforces the fact that the people in this series live in the real world- not an Astraea Hill-like fantasy land.
While there are writers who "get it" as much as Shimura Takako, nobody surpasses her level. The people accusing her of homophobia because of the Kyouko arc that's being serialized right now can go jump off a cliff.
But yes- yay, Aoi Hana! ^____^