Light-harvesting complex II (LHCII) is pivotal both for collecting solar radiation for photosynthesis, and for protection against photodamage under high light intensities (via a process called nonphotochemical quenching, NPQ). Aggregation of LHCII is associated with fluorescence quenching, and is used as an in vitro model system of NPQ. However, there is no agreement on the nature of the quencher and on the validity of aggregation as a model system. Here, we use ultrafast multipulse spectroscopy to populate a quenched state in unquenched (unaggregated) LHCII. The state shows characteristic features of lutein and chlorophyll, suggesting that it is an excitonically coupled state between these two compounds. This state decays in approximately 10 ps, making it a strong competitor for photodamage and photochemical quenching. It is observed in trimeric and monomeric LHCII, upon re-excitation with pulses of different wavelengths and duration. We propose that this state is always present, but is scarcely populated under low light intensities. Under high light intensities it may become more accessible, e.g. by conformational changes, and then form a quenching channel. The same state may be the cause of fluorescence blinking observed in single-molecule spectroscopy of LHCII trimers, where a small subpopulation is in an energetically higher state where the pathway to the quencher opens up.