Before I start, I should say that Yours Truly has recently replaced My Little Dashie at the core of my heart-drive. If you are viewing this humble two-cents, please take your time to [go read the story first]
. Also, sorry for the wall of text. I don't have a good enough camera to record a reaction/review video.
The literal aspects of the story, the bittersweet emotions that makes this particular fanfic an epitome of brony literature are being discussed to death in the EqD comments section, so there would be no need for me to repeat those sentiments and say that I cried manly tears. What I really want to discuss here is two things. One, the author's interpretation on one of the two main characters, Applejack, and especially her defining character trait; the Element of Honesty. Two, the narrative techniques, both literal and pseudo-visual, that weave the emotions and Applejack's element into a coherent and organic piece. This passage contains the first part, mostly because of my lack of writing skills to deal with both topics in a single passage.
Applejack's Element of Honesty is perhaps the least understood and most underutilized out of the six Elements of Harmony. Honesty is defined by the Mirrian-Webster dictionary as "fairness and straightforwardness of conduct," or more colloquially known as "telling the truth." While the definition of her element is only comprised of a few words at best, its deceptively simple wording has caused quite a confusion regarding how to interpret that element and incorporate into a working story.
In the show, the presence of the Element of Honesty and lack of said presence both act as a nuisance for her, so we see her either in situations where that element does not come to play(where the authors can conveniently circumvent writing about the element, as in S1E04/S1E21), or where that element psychologically clamps her like a pincer, between uncomfortable truths and temptations of easy getaways through deception or simply discarding the issue. The "pincer" situation has been repeated for at least two times, during Party of One(S1E25) and The Last Roundup(S2E14), the latter being entirely devoted to showing how Applejack gets hurt because of that pincer. Even in the very first scene where she gets to actively use her element (S1E02, saying to Twilight, "Let go."), whether she uses her element or not does not matter in the causality of the situation, as we see RD and Fluttershy already in position to catch the falling Twilight anyway. Instilling trust to a friend in a dire situation is nice, but it wasn't as much of a game changer as the other four Elements and the one Element that binds them all.
In short, we didn't get to see an episode where the ability to tell the truth proves beneficial beyond the standard "not telling the truth is bad" lesson.
Because of the difficulties of using the ability to tell the truth as a plot device, many fanfic writers try to reinterpret the Element of Honesty as the ability to look through deception and discern the truth. While this is good all and all if they can write a good story based around it, it is still a perspective that is not supported by canon episodes, as we simply have not seen an instance of Applejack staring through one's soul to search for hidden truths. (Remember, she was almost always the searchee than the searcher.) If my meager experience is any tell-tale, semicanon/headcanon fanfictions that involves Applejack acting under such assumption would usually result in clashes or feelings that something just doesn't add up. If one aims to write a fiction that features the true to "canon" Applejack and use the phrase such as "piercing gaze that penetrates...", it may be considered a bad start.
Then, has there been even a single fanfic, in which Applejack says the truth and the end result gets much better than skipping the truth at all? I have found two actually. The honorable EqD Star-6 [Ah Ain't Got No Ack-cent]
, and this one, Yours Truly. Since this wall of text is pertinent to the latter, I will try to concentrate on the latter.
(Please forgive me if I didn't list more stories based on this perspective; I didn't have the time to skim through the entire fanfiction archive. Besides, it's already 3:00 AM.)
The first few letters between Twilight and Applejack is a clever play on both the literal definition of "honesty" and the episode The Last Roundup, as they explore the three layers of truth Applejack displays when she keeps an uncomfortable truth for herself; ignoring the personal truth by invoking outside facts, refusal to tell the uncomfortable truth, and finally, the truth itself. This meta-wordplay and shout-out to previous episodes serves to convince the reader that the character being described as Applejack is indeed a reasonable extrapolation of the future Applejack based on "canon" Applejack, building the foundation to construct a story upon.
The story truly starts to shine as the author ventures through uncharted territories, or in other words, telling the truth, actively breaking the status quo-the facade that hides true feelings toward one other in the name of social mores, with each successive letter. This behavior is not only evident in Applejack's letters; Pinkie Pie sneaking Rarity's first draft through her letter, Fluttershy reluctantly sending her letters to Rainbow Dash, Rarity using her cognizant pen to write down the thoughts directly on a journal for Spike to read them in the future, etc etc. These examples provide the readers with the idea of telling the truth, not just to avoid punishment, but to communicate their thoughts and emotions toward their friends, for the sake of themselves. Also note Rarity's remark on being unable to express her inner feelings to her so-called associates, as exemplified by the initial, terse and air tight letter sent to Fancypants. There are more than enough symbols and manifestations of various levels of personal truths and lies within the story so that describing all of them would effectively double the length of this already length passage. (Also, I'm writing this at 5:00 AM local time, no more sleep left to continue, to be honest. Heh!)
The whole story can almost be called a truth-salad, yet such manifestations are easily recognized and impressionable, thanks to the linear chronology of letters that guide the readers, and later, certain characters that would later read the letters from a reader's perspective, whose reading through the letters would definitely leave a strong emotional impact on the (human) readers. But the chronological structure of said letters may be discussed in another time.
It is very refreshing to see Applejack being proud and confident by staying truthful to her Element, in contrast to what is being depicted on the show so far. If you have any doubts, go ahead and read through the story, and take special attention to the last letter. Strip away the social mores, [Shipping] tags, and read it as a letter from an individual to an individual, a product of genuine affection and deep introspection, nothing more. Tell me I'm biased or corny, but because of that letter alone, I do not consider "Yours Truly" to be a bittersweet piece of writing; if there are any socially justified tears left to shed, it would be tears of joy, joy to witness a close individual at the happiest moment of one's life. More so because... Applejack was the first pony I rooted for while watching my very first episodes, including S1E04, Applebuck Season.