"Two Steps Forward, Two Steps Back" is the ninth episode of Volume 4 and the forty-ninth episode of RWBY. It premiered for Rooster Teeth sponsors on January 7th, 2017 and was released for non-FIRST registered users of the Rooster Teeth site on January 8th, 2017. It was made public on January 14th, 2017.
Taiyang Xiao Long and Yang Xiao Long spar with Zwei watching. Tai gains the upper hand and gives his daughter a speech about how her Semblance is basically a temper tantrum that she has been using without considering how much it can exhaust her. He accuses her of always trying to brute force her way through problems, which puts her at a disadvantage. He also opens up about Raven Branwen, revealing the traits he admired about her that he also sees in Yang. Tai mentions that her flaws were what broke up Team STRQ. The two spar again, this time Yang using the same balance trick on Tai that he had pulled on her, and he smiles in approval.
Weiss Schnee works on Summoning the Arma Gigas in her room but is interrupted by Whitley Schnee. He taunts her about not being able to leave while he is meeting business partners. Aggravated, she asks him if he is just jealous of hers and Winter Schnee's abilities. Whitley denies it, claiming that valuing such things as a Huntsmen's skills is barbaric when you can command an army. Weiss forces him out of her room and manages to Summon the Arma Gigas directly after, breaking out her window in the process. Klein Sieben comes running only to be impressed with Weiss. She then asks him to do her a favor.
Blake Belladonna and Sun Wukong chase the spy. Sun uses his clones to hold her down while Blake retrieves the spy's Scroll, breaking her mask in the process. The spy is revealed to be Ilia Amitola, a Faunus from Blake's past. Ilia wounds Sun and informs Blake that she should never have returned. After Ilia disappears, Blake races to Sun, who is unconscious and bleeding. She covers the wound with her hand and cries out for help, telling Sun to hold on.
Ruby Rose delivers the same message to an unconscious and delirious Qrow Branwen. She and Jaune Arc are carrying him on a stretcher with Lie Ren leading the way and Nora Valkyrie guarding the rear of the party. They come to a fork in the road and have to choose between the easier path that leads to a destroyed village, or the mountainous route that goes to Mistral. They reluctantly decide to split up to increase their chances of finding aid for Qrow. Ren and Nora take the mountain path while Jaune and Ruby carry Qrow toward the reportedly destroyed town of Kuroyuri. Their footsteps imprint over the same mark discovered in Shion.
Yang Xiao Long lifts up her head, arms as the ready for a fight. Taiyang Xiao Long takes a swing at her with his left hand, but she easily blocks it with her robotic wrist, pushing his hand away from her. The interplay repeats with his right and her left, only this time Yang uses the momentum to turn and come back at her father with a roundhouse kick. Taiyang bends backwards to dodge it, his legs in a lunge. He gives his daughter a solid punch, pushing her back a few feet.
Nearby, Zwei watches the two spar, panting happily. Beside him is a low stool with two white towels. His head changes angles, oscillating to the sounds of grunts and contact. Abruptly he holds his head straight and makes a noise of surprise.
Taiyang stands alone and moves forward, doing his own roundhouse kick. Yang joins both hands atop each other to block Tai's landing foot. With a loud cry, she pushes it up and back. Taiyang regains his footing in a flip while Yang waits for his landing. Using her robotic arm, she knocks him back with a single hit.
Holding onto his right bicep, Tai slides through the dirt, his feet flat on the ground until he comes to a stop.
Taiyang: Whoa, that thing packs a punch!
Yang: We've been at this for weeks. I get it, you wanna make sure I can still fight. (bumping her own fists) I think I'm doing just fine.
Taiyang: You're close.
He stands upright, no longer nursing his arm. Walking around his daughter in a circle, he assesses her progress.
Yang: Oh, really?
Taiyang: You're still off balance.
Yang: What?! No I'm not!
Yang: Honestly, I'm kind of surprised.
She lifts her robotic arm, looking down at it with a smile.
Yang: I thought it would be just this huge weight, but it feels... natural. They did a great job with this thing.
Taiyang comes in from offscreen, delivering a left hook right into her face. Yang's upper body rears back both from impact and surprise. She's ready to block his right hook, however, and uses the turning momentum to deliver an elbow jab. Grinning the entire time, Tai blocks it and then dodges all the kicks she follows through with. Yang switches to punches, but Tai is too on point for her. While she uses her left hand to block an elbow thrust, Tai has grasped her robotic arm and pulled it forward. The position puts Yang in the position of having her balance rely on the weight of one leg.
Taiyang: I wasn't talking about your actual balance.
He sweeps her forward leg, sending her onto the ground on her back. He leaves her there and walks over to Zwei, who happily gets the top towel for him.
Taiyang: Although, that could use some work too.
Taiyang takes the towel and give Zwei a rub on the top of his head. Zwei hums happily. Arms spread on the ground, Yang takes a breath before speaking.
Taiyang: (toweling off his sweat) I saw your tournament fights. During the Vytal Festival.
Yang: Let me guess. (in mocking accent) "I was sloppy."
Taiyang: No, no, you were predictable. And... stubborn. And... maybe a little boneheaded.
Yang sits up and spins to stare at her father.
Taiyang: Do you realize that you used your Semblance to win every fight after the qualifiers?
Yang: (spinning to have her back to him) So what? How is me using my Semblance any different than someone else using theirs?
Tossing the towel on the ground, Taiyang moves toward Yang.
Taiyang: Because not everyone else's is basically a temper tantrum. (laughing and crouching by her side) I'm serious! Once you take damage, you can dish it back twice as hard, but that doesn't make you invincible! It's great when you're in a bind, but what happens if you miss? What happens if they're stronger? What then? Now you're just weak and tired! You've always been one to burn brighter than everyone else, whether it was with your smile, or, well, I remember your first haircut.
He playfully tugs the hair on the back of her head. Smiling, Yang bats him away. He chuckles and gets up, walking away a few paces with Zwei just behind him.
Taiyang: But you gotta keep your emotions in check. Keep a level head, and think before you act. Your Semblance is a great fallback, but you can't let yourself rely on it. It won't always save you.
He lowers his head, sadness creeping into his tone.
Taiyang: Obviously. You definitely have your mom's stubbornness.
Taiyang faces one of the trees, not looking at Yang. Between the two of them, Zwei moves his head back and forth as each speaks.
Yang: Oh, so now we can talk about her?
Taiyang: Well, as I have been informed, you're an adult now, remember?
Yang: Well, sorry I remind you of her.
Taiyang: Don't be. Raven was great in so many ways - her strength, her ambition, her dedication to whatever cause she thought was worth fighting for.
He turns around.
Taiyang: I'm proud of how much of her I see in you. But, I'm glad I don't see all of her in you.
Taiyang: Your mother was... a complicated woman. Like everybody, she had her faults, but those faults are what tore our team apart. And, it did a real number on our family. You both act like the easiest way to tackle an obstacle is through it. (pointing at Zwei) That strength is all that matters in a fight. But if you just take a second look, then maybe you see... (walking toward her, stepping around Zwei) there's a way around as well. (extends hand) Come on - one more before dinner.
Yang takes his hand and he helps her up. They circle each other, arms at the ready. Taiyang makes the first move with a left hook, followed immediately by a right cross and a kick. Yang blocks and dodges, continuing to avoid being hit even when Taiyang flips in the air. She cartwheels, avoiding him and he lands across from her. They face off again, Taiying doing a single punch and kick. Veering to avoid it, Yang rolls a few feet away before turning and rushing at him. They meet in the middle, each with their left hand on the other's right elbow, pushing against each other.
Taiyang: Heh. See? Alright! Now you're using your head instead of your—
Yang kicks his leg out from underneath him but catches him as he falls back. They pause in that pose, grasping hands and smiling together.
In the makeshift practice area of her room, Weiss Schnee holds Myrtenaster at the ready. She steps back, twirls, a stream of blue-white light coming from the tip of her sword. On the close of her twirl, Weiss hold it aloft before striking the tip to the floor. A Summoning glyph appears, the Arma Gigas' sword slowly but surely beginning to emerge. Weiss' eyes are shut as she concentrates, the power of her Summoning causing a small wind to blow the hair around her face. A voice interrupts.
Whitley Schnee: Hello, sister.
He is propped up against the frame of her open door. The sword shatters and disappears, the glyph fading away after.
Weiss: Ugh, leave.
Whitley: How hurtful. And here I am, about to offer you a favor. Father's taking me to town to introduce me to some of his business partners. I'd thought I'd see if you wanted me to pick up anything since you're... well, stuck here.
Weiss: Are you jealous? Is that it?
Whitley: Whatever do you mean?
Weiss: Is that why you hate me? Are you jealous of my abilities? Of Winter's?
Whitley: (stepping away from the door frame) Hmm... no, not really. Honestly, I find it barbaric. It's beneath people like me. Like Father. What can a single Huntsman possibly do that an army cannot? That's why we have one, even if it is run by a fool.
Weiss: I said, leave.
Whitley: Fine, fine. I've got better things to do. (leaving) Enjoy your... training, however pointless it is.
At the door, Whitley turns around, on hand on the jamb.
Whitley: What is your plan, anyway? What do you hope to accomplish while trapped in your own bedroom?
A black glyph appears on the open door, promptly swinging it shut on Whitley's briefly surprised face.
Weiss lowers Myrtenaster with a sigh and resumes her Summoning position. The glyph appears and this time Weiss looks at the portrait of the Arma Gigas on the wall. She repeats the same twirl and stab. The glyph glows brightly and spins faster.
The books shake in the bookcase on the wall. One particular tome, decorated with floral relief, falls off the shelf and opens on the floor.
The window bursts outward as the room is consumed in a bright white light. The light abates to reveal Weiss covering her eyes with her arm. The door to her room is pushed open by an urgent Klein Sieben.
Klein: Miss Schnee! Are you alright?!
The butler's eyes widen and he leans backwards, looking amazed. Weiss smiles at him and turns to face the Arma Gigas she successfully Summoned.
The Arma Gigas goes down to one knee and bows at Weiss.
Weiss: (looking out the broken window) Klein, I need a favor.
Klein nods determinedly.
Blake Belladonna and the masked White Fang member leap from tree to tree, Blake in pursuit of the other Faunus. They both pause for a moment, gripping different trees. A noise above the spy makes her gasp and Sun Wukong appears, dropping down.
She leaps on, out of his path. Blake pursues while Sun lands on a branch.
Sun: Hey, wait up!
Blake: Don't let her out of your sight!
The spy emerges from the trees and onto a roof. She continues to run across the buildings, Blake right behind her. Sliding under some arching pipes, she finally turns and stops. Using her weapon in whip form, she slices the pipe, releasing steam to block Blake. It doesn't work; Blake moves right under the pipes through the steam.
Blake: Why are you watching me?
The girl smiles and lowers her weapon. Sun lands on the roof behind her, causing her to turn around.
Sun: Give it up! I'm not above hitting a girl, you—
He gets cut off when the spy's whip comes at him in an attack, which he falls back to avoid. Blake takes advantage of the distraction to kick the Scroll out of the spy's hand. The girl is surprised, avoids Blake's next attack, responds with a kick of her own and attempts to retrieve the Scroll. Sun tackles her instead.
Sun: Grab the Scroll! Seems someone thinks it's important!
Spy: Get off!
She headbutts Sun, cracking off the part of the mask covering her left eye, and tries to race Blake to the Scroll. Instead, first one and then a total of four clones tackle her. Sun is holding his pose to control his Semblance and Blake pauses.
Sun: Quit staring and grab it!
Blake listens, and Sun finally releases his Semblance, which he had been struggling to maintain, and falls to his knees. The clones disappear from atop the girl. She rises and aims her weapon at Blake.
Sun: Blake, watch out!
Blake turns, rising with the Scroll in her hand. She sees the broken Grimm mask crumble from the spy's face.
Sun: (getting to his feet) Wait, you know her?! But she doesn't even look like a f—aagh!
He gets cut off when the color-changing Ilia strikes an electric hit near his shoulder with her weapon. Sun cries out and falls.
Ilia: Give it to me.
Ilia changes color again.
Ilia: You shouldn't have come back.
She uses her weapon to create a rush of dust, which allows her to escape.
Blake briefly acknowledges that Ilia has disappeared before rushing over to Sun.
Blake: Sun! Sun!
Sun is lying on his back, bleeding from the wound Ilia caused. Blake covers the wound with her hands.
Blake: No, no, no, not again, please! Help! Somebody! Hold on, Sun, just hold on.
The landscape is looking dreary as Ruby Rose can be heard breathing heavily.
Ruby: Just hold on, Uncle Qrow.
Qrow: Tai. She's not... coming... (grunting in pain) Tai.
Qrow coughs repeatedly.
Jaune: He's getting worse.
Ruby: How much farther?
Nora: We've gotta be close.
Ren: Without the map, there's no way of knowing. But I feel like we're close to something.
Ren holsters StormFlower.
Ruby: What is it?
Directly ahead is a fork in the road with a signpost. They are coming from the direction of Higanbana. Kuchinashi and Mistral are to the right, where the land is mountainous. To the left is Kuroyuri, its name crossed out. The path that way remains low ground.
Nora: Hey, hey! Mistral! We're on the right path! Oh...
Ruby: Does it say how close?!
Ren: No. And it looks like the path takes us up the mountains.
Jaune and Ruby set Qrow down.
Jaune: Guys, I don't know if all of us can make that climb.
Ruby looks at Qrow, concerned, before rushing forward to the signpost.
Ruby: Okay. Well, what about this place? (pointing) Kuro... Kuroyuri? Can we get help there?
Ren: That village was destroyed years ago.
Jaune: But if it takes us around the mountains, it's the best bet we've got.
Ren: (sternly) It will take too long.
Ruby: The town would have had a doctor, right? Maybe we could scavenge for medicine!
Ren: (closing his eyes, lowering his head and shaking it) We're not going to find anything! We just have to press on!
There is just a brief moment of silence. Ruby watches him, clutching her hands before her chest.
Jaune: Ren, why are you acting—
Nora: (cutting Jaune off and coming up beside Ren) We can split up.
Nora: (putting her hand on Ren's shoulder) Ren and I can cut through the mountains while you and Ruby take Qrow around through the village.
Jaune: No, we're supposed to stick together! We keep each other safe!
Nora: We don't have time for safe! If we make it to Mistral, we'll bring back help! If we don't, at least we'll have a better view of the land! Up there, we can see if there's somewhere else we can go!
Ren turns and looks at Nora. They exchange small, affectionate smiles. Still holding his gaze, Nora drops her hand from his shoulder. All four remain silent, feeling the weight of the choice before them. Qrow coughs, making them all turn in concern and giving the motive to continue.
Jaune looks at Ruby before turning to Nora and Ren.
Jaune steps forward and he and Ren hug each other.
Jaune: Just take care of each other.
Nora: (smiling at Ren) We always have.
On the path to Kuroyuri, Jaune and Ruby lift Qrow. They turn to Nora and Ren, who are on the path through the mountains to Mistral. They nod and Nora waves. Ren starts to turn, looks back one more time, and then runs. Nora follows.
An aerial shot shows the split Team RNJR going in separate directions before the visual focuses in on just Jaune and Ruby.
Ruby: (confidently, offering comfort) They're gonna be fine, Jaune.
Jaune: You don't know that.
Ruby turns forward, her expression saddening. Moving forward, her step leaves an imprint on the ground, shortly after overlapped by Jaune's own. The visual pulls back again, revealing that their footsteps tread over another, larger mark—the same one discovered in Shion.
- During Team RNJR's segment of the episode, all of the patches of mud on the ground were originally water puddles. However, Kerry Shawcross forgot about this while the scene was being animated.
- Main article: Two Steps Forward, Two Steps Back/Image Gallery
- Volume 4 Directors' Commentary Chapter 9