Iris has been challenged by Opelucid Gym Leader Drayden, and she’s back in town to battle him! But as soon as she arrives (with Ash and Cilan in tow), a crisis of confidence sends her scurrying up a tall metal tower for some fresh air and solitude. Her retreat doesn’t last long, though—Officer Jenny is quickly on the scene to order her back to the ground, and she makes Iris promise never to do that again. It seems the aspiring Dragon Master has a bit of a history here...
Upon running into her former dorm advisor Martha, Iris reveals that she used to be a student at Opelucid Academy, one of the most famous schools of Pokémon knowledge in the Unova region—led by none other than Gym Leader Drayden as the academy president. It seemed the perfect opportunity for her to make an intensive study of Dragon-type Pokémon, but the free-spirited Iris had trouble fitting in with the other students, and soon became homesick and lonely. She first climbed the tower in an attempt to get a glimpse of home, and the fresh air reminded her of her beloved Village of Dragons, so the top of the tower became her favorite retreat. After a battle against one of her classmates went wrong and she got a stern talking-to from Drayden about connecting with her Pokémon, she decided the academy just wasn’t for her, and returned home before setting out on her journey with Axew.
Now it’s time for Iris to prove to Drayden how much she and her Pokémon have grown together! The battle begins with Drayden’s Haxorus up against Iris’s Excadrill—it’s a rematch of the battle they had in the Village of Dragons when Iris was younger! This time, it ends in a draw, as Excadrill and Haxorus manage to knock each other out at the same time. Next up, Drayden calls out his Druddigon, and Iris turns to her Dragonite. She initially plans to attack from the air because Druddigon can’t fly, but quickly remembers that Dragonite prefers an even playing field, and shifts her strategy to match her Pokémon’s wishes. The two seem evenly matched, and Druddigon eventually comes out on top.
Iris is defeated, but the battle has served its purpose, and Drayden is satisfied with her potential and the strength she’s shown. He advises her to keep training and getting stronger, and asks her to come back and visit when she’s ready. As he leaves, Martha reveals that it was actually Drayden who suggested to the Village Elder that Iris go on a journey...and that he’s been planning for her to take over as the Opelucid Gym Leader when he retires!
Iris is stunned by this news, and asks for some time to consider her decision while she continues her journey. Next stop: Vertress City and the Unova League!