Lyra slammed the copy of Equestria Daily on the desk, nearly unsettling her agent's cup of coffee from its precarious position where it was standing in her warpath. She leafed through the pages, as her agent watched with an abject mixture of fear and nonchalance. Finally, Lyra found the entry, and spun the newspaper towards the agent, who regarded it from underneath a pair of racing shades.
"Look, Heartstrings. I know you're getting all beat up 'bout this review, but let's keep things in perspective, a'right?"
Lyra leaned forward, staring into the face of her employer. She had been finding it so extraordinarily difficult to resist the urge to force a hoof through his face in the week just past. Now his carefree attitude with her career was exactly the sort of treatment she wanted to avoid.
"Perspective?! That's the third one this week! You can't say they're a 'one-off,' or 'some cranky mare who got an uncomfy seat.' These ponies are what get ponies coming to my concerts, you can't tell me they don't make a difference."
Her agent carefully notched his shades up his forehead, unveiling his ice blue eyes as he perched the shades amongst the curls of steel-grey hair in his mane. A stylised look that probably required a metric tonne of hairspray each morning, Lyra thought.
"Heartstrings, come on, we're still getting the folks in. Besides, they're not negative, just...y'know, not singing and dancing about ya."
Lyra snatched up the the newspaper, dictating a segment from the review. She hadn't needed to really, Acquired Taste's words had been ringing through her ears since she had first read them. The power of advertising, she supposed, or she was more like a rabbit caught in the headlights.
"'Miss Heartstrings' performance was undertaken with the pinnacle of precise playing. However, while this may seem to be a positive, I must relay my concerns. Discerning critics like myself flock to concerts like these to see the artist, to feel the interaction with the audience. Miss Heartstrings offers none of this.'"
Lyra flipped the page, pinching her eyelids tight to stop them smarting so much. It wasn't easy reading the condemnation that followed, even tough she knew the words before she read them.
"'Her performance, while technically brilliant, offers no emotion...no passion. I would love the day that other artists show me this level of clarity and reproduction of sound, but I would rue the same day were it to remove the soul of the artist. As a result, I feel Miss Heartstring's performance is little better than a fairly good gramophone. Excellent sound reproduction, but nothing else.'"
The paper was lightly tossed onto the floor, landing amongst the pile of paperwork Lyra's agent had neglected to file. He considered himself more of a casual agent, a fact Lyra found mostly irritating. The same agent lowered his shades with the flick of a hoof, evidently unwilling to have his eyes betray his thoughts.
"Please, Silver, call me Lyra. I've been asking you to for the last two years."
Lyra flicked an errant tear from the corner of her eye, casting it away where the world wouldn't see it. Quick Silver kept his pristine poker face, only nodding slightly to acknowledge her.
"Look, Heartstrings, I have to use surnames to keep it professional. It doesn't matter, a name's a name. Anyway, we can work past this. She says you're good at playing, right? Now you just gotta find something to be passionate about!"
Lyra crossed her forelegs, raising an eyebrow to question Quick Silver's proposed source of inspiration.
"Right, yeah. I know you're probably skeptical, but hold on a minute. The city ain't a place to get inspired, not even great Canterlot. You need somewhere quiet, with rollin' fields, tiny, little streams, and big forests. You need...the countryside."
Lyra's right eyebrow shot skyward. She could barely muster an atom of enthusiasm into her voice, replying in an icy deadpan drawl. She could feel a headache beginning to surface, Quick Silver's ideas were often far from restful.
"Right. So you're kicking me to some hick town...for help with classical music?"
Quick Silver shook his head, a feat that surprisingly didn't move his mane at all. Lyra upped her estimations to about two metric tonnes of hairspray a day. It was more like a slab of concrete than a manedo.
"No, you're good at playing, and you know it. Tell me, what do tonnes of old poets go on and on about?"
"C'mon, you're all artists! Nature, birds in the trees, that kinda stuff! You go out into the country, get yourself a nice spot to chill and get some R 'n' R, then get to thinking up some songs about nature. Then boom! You got yourself some passion!"
Lyra stroked her temple with a hoof, working the blood vessels away from her brain in a vain attempt to abate her incoming headache. Well, in her eyes a paid vacation was a paid vacation, so it made sense to take whatever scheme Quick Silver was investing her in. She picked up her lyre case, ensuring it was firmly buckled in place, and sat in next to her on the chair.
"So, where do you want me to go?"
Quick Silver drew out a stellar grin and a large map, rolling the former over the desk in front of him. His hoof scanned the vast countryside surrounding Canterlot, hovering over the various states of Kenbucky, Whinnysota and Coltorado, finally alighting on a picture of a small town, before tapping it excitedly with a hoof.
"Yeah, that's the filly. Quiet, but got some ponies to chat to and learn from. Tonnes of country. Apple farms, forests, hay, even a bog. Perfect for nature stuff!"
Lyra hitched her lyre case up her body, allowing it to rest on the side of her flank like a saddlebag. She leaned onto the desk, alternating her view between the map and her agent.
"And you're serious about this?"
Lyra sighed, waving a submissive affirmative with her hoof. 'What the hay," she thought, "At least it's got clean air, and fresh apples."
"Okay, I'll see you in a week."